Lars Rensing is the CEO of a blockchain solution provider Protocolhand THE ARKand has over four years of experience in the growing metaverse market.
Rensing told Insider Sport how sports teams can use the blockchain space and its advanced technologies to attract and expand their fan bases.
The premise of the metaverse is simple – it’s a type of digital universe. In this universe, users can purchase a virtual domain (often in the form of NFT digital collectibles). Metaverses like Decentraland already have a large following in crypto and gaming, but the application of the technology extends far beyond those industries.
Many industries have explored this technology, some of which have been successful. For example, Gucci Garden, a branded virtual space with themed rooms and a place to try on and buy the brand’s limited-edition digital clothing, launched on Roblox in May.
Some may think that the concept came out of nowhere. Although it has been around for a while and is gaining popularity in some circles, it wasn’t until Meta (formerly Facebook) announced they were launching a metaverse that the concept took off.
However, one industry that is particularly willing to take advantage of technology is the sports industry. For sports, teams can use the digital universe to attract new and existing fans and open up entirely new revenue streams in innovative ways.
Increasing fan loyalty is something all teams should focus on. To increase fan loyalty, sports teams could offer fans virtual experiences and rewards that can be offered in the virtual world.
NFTs – blockchain-based non-fungible tokens that cannot be replicated or counterfeited – play a key role here. NFT is the key to the metaverse. This year they already continue to be extremely popular; The NFT spent more in the first three days of 2022 than in the first seven months of 2021 combined.
One way teams can reward NFT fans in the metaverse is by creating virtual experiences. For example, teams can create a metaverse virtual version of their stadium and sell NFTs as tickets to fans for tours. This is something we’ve seen in football before – Manchester City will create a virtual replica of the Etihad Stadium. Selling tickets in these places as an NFT is important because it means fans can have a seamless and secure ticketing experience without the risk of fraud.
Indeed, the blockchain technology behind NFTs is extremely secure. Fans also have the advantage of having an indestructible collectible on their journey that cannot be counterfeited. Virtual stadiums can not only create new sources of income, but also allow fans around the world to feel more connected to their team. This commitment could go even further by allowing fans to visit parts of the stadium that they would not normally be able to see in person in a virtual environment, such as the training grounds, without compromising the physical security of the stadium.
In the future, fans will even be able to train virtually with athletes (both physically training while connected to the virtual world) as a reward for purchasing Team NFTs or Fan Tokens, tokens that can act as a fan’s virtual currency. This will allow teams to offer personal and compelling rewards to more of their fans around the world. This would be especially helpful for smaller teams looking to expand their fanbase. Those who attend virtual practices can also receive an exclusive NFT to commemorate the experience, further rewarding fans for their part in the team.
Wearable NFT devices
Not only can sports teams take NFTs out of digital collectibles, but they can also take the technology to the next level. For example, teams can create additional revenue streams and opportunities from NFT merchandise in the metaverse with NFT wearables. NFT clothing is a type of NFT that can be worn by avatars and not just kept as a collectible.
These can be custom made or signed player jerseys, which can then be worn by fans in games or the Metaverse. For example, football fans can buy Ronaldo’s NFT shirts and then wear them on a popular game like Fortnite. This can create additional income for teams by selling them to fans. Fans can also have provable ownership of collectibles via NFT due to the transparent and secure nature of the blockchain.
NFT wearables also enable teams to create long-term and sustainable opportunities for fan loyalty and engagement. Providing fans with exclusive collectibles that they can use digitally can help fans feel more connected to their team and therefore be more loyal. For sports teams in particular, these portable devices can play an important role in expanding their fan base.
The video game and metaverse market that these NFTs can be ported to is much larger than the traditional sports audience, so teams can use NFTs to introduce their brand to a wider audience. It also has huge potential for sponsors. Teams can create their team’s NFT gear, including sponsor logos, which fans can then wear in games or virtual worlds. This provides more sponsor visibility in the metaverse and allows teams to create better sponsor relationships and deals.
While live events have returned since the pandemic, virtual events are still an exciting opportunity for teams. Sports teams can use the metaverse to expand beyond live games to reward their fans. Teams and athletes could be streamed live to fans in digital stadiums across the Metaverse.
This will allow fans around the world to watch games on screens or in digital stadiums built into the metaverse, allowing teams to tap into their global fan base, especially those who might not normally be able to attend in person. Instead of watching matches on TV or online while sitting in a virtual stadium, visitors can feel like they are watching the game in person, in a virtual community of fans.
These types of events will also have the advantage of being protected from any future pandemics. The NFTs will act as tickets to access these events, and as with physical venues, fans can purchase a specific seat. There may even be subscriptions to NFT-backed metaverse games, opening up new opportunities for revenue, loyalty, and fan engagement.
The Metaverse can also help with equal access; fans who may not be able to attend the in-person tour due to availability reasons can attend the Metaverse Virtual Tour, requiring only an NFT ticket.
The Metaverse is a particularly exciting technology for sports teams, who can use the technology to expand their fan bases, create new revenue streams, and propel their teams into a new phase of innovation. Teams wishing to use this technology with NFT can be sure of its benefits not only for the team itself, but also for sponsors and fans.