NFTs in Sports

The emerging technology of NFTs in sports provides an opportunity for leagues, teams, and athletes to connect more deeply with fans.

NFTs in Sports

The sports industry embracing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is a huge opportunity for sports to not only drive more revenue but also engage with fanbases to celebrate teams, athletes and iconic moments throughout sports history. NFTs can often come in a variety of digital media, and so the opportunity for the sports industry to innovate is immense and exhilarating.

What are NFTs?

The term fungible means that an item can be exchanged or traded for another. For example, a $10 bill is the same as another $10 bill or two $5 bills. Non-fungible means the item is unique. If you saved the first $1 bill you earned from your first job, you likely wouldn’t accept just any $1 for it because it’s more unique than just its dollar equivalent.

NFTs are digital assets that are one-of-a-kind and recorded on a blockchain.

All NFTs are unique and therefore can authenticate ownership of digital assets. NFTs come in all forms like artwork, photography, recordings, virtual real estate, e-sports or gaming tokens, and more. Essentially anything that can be converted into a file can become an NFT. This is revolutionary as it provides a way of certifying authenticity for digital artifacts and creates the concept of "digital scarcity" for the first time in human history.

What are NFTs in Sports?

How is the sports industry using NFTs so far? NFTs have been used to create things like:

  • Digital trading cards
  • Digital sports merchandise and collectibles
  • Collectible video highlights
  • Digital tickets
  • Digital fan experiences

Sports teams, athletes, and leagues are all setting up their own NFT projects. Even quarterback Tom Brady recently started an NFT company called Autograph.

‘Rookie Cards’ as NFTs

The market for NFTs has increased exponentially. With it came opportunities in sports that didn’t exist before. One of the first athletes to capitalize on the potential was the college basketball player Evan Mobley. When Mobley declared for the 2021 NBA draft, he didn’t just make a news release. Instead, he caused a sensation by releasing an NFT ‘Rookie Card’ that handed the lucky buyer two signed jerseys, and two future game tickets with a player meet and greet.

Since then, the market for NFT in sports has continued to expand as other athletes realize its potential.

Three Uses of NFTs in Sports

Organizations are using NFTs in three exciting ways, and you can bet that the industry’s evolution won’t stop there.

Collectible NFTs

Collectible NFTs can be a lot of things. Digital merchandise, digital trading cards, special edition collectibles for games attended, collectible sports history moments — they are all part of a lucrative and expanding collectible NFT marketplace.

In April 2021, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors became the first professional sports team to launch an NFT collection. The collectibles included digital championship rings to celebrate the team’s six NBA championships and digital ticket stubs from important games, such as the victory over the Grizzlies in 2016 that broke the NBA record for wins in one season.

Season Ticket Member NFTs

Tickets to special events end up on people’s dressers, mirrors, and albums, conjuring up fond memories of a special event. NFTs capitalize on the importance that significant events hold in a fan’s life. As a digital version of season tickets, NFTs can also streamline entry into events and provide additional opportunities for fans to interact in virtual worlds. These digital worlds provide a glimpse into bench cams, player cams, locker rooms, and other unique video content.

For example, Autograph, the NFT platform Tom Brady co-founded, announced 2,500 season ticket NFTs for sale this fall. Known as “The Huddle,” the $750 season ticket experience provides “unique access to exclusive content, digital collectibles, custom-made merchandise, and private, in-person events.”

As another example, the Utah Jazz NBA Team provided access to a virtual locker room for owners of their NFT.

Season ticket member NFTs are a great way for fans to receive special access by being season ticket holders, which makes them feel even more like VIPs. Ticketmaster also recently announced that they would be allowing event organizers to issue tickets in the form of NFTs.

Digital + Real World Fan Rewards

Organizations are collaborating with NFTs that offer collectible assets along with real-world perks — like jerseys and other merchandise.
Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly partnered with the Fantom Foundation — the team behind the Fantom blockchain — to launch NFTs that give fans rights to exclusive merchandise like signed helmets and VIP meet and greets.

Sports NFT Marketplaces

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Trading cards and sports events have been popular for decades. And now that the digital world has expanded, sports organizations are racing to keep up with the trend.

They’re doing it by being accessible on one of the many NFT marketplaces that exist on the web.

Some of the most popular sports NFT marketplaces are:

Why Do Organizations Use NFTs for Sports?

Technology has provided sports organizations with new ways to innovate — especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The constraints of the pandemic forced organizations to explore more digital experiences that can come through things like NFTs. As the sports industry explores new ways to use NFTs, we will soon see how teams, leagues, and athletes can grow their relationships with fans.

Connects Fans with Teams

Teams are always looking for ways to connect with their fans. With the increased need for digital connectivity, NFTs provide a fantastic opportunity for just that. Fans can collect and trade memorabilia from their favorite teams, get exclusive access to behind-the-scenes events, and buy other digital merch that allows them to stay plugged in.

As Golden State Warriors President and COO Brandon Schneider noted, 99% of Warriors' fans will never make it to the team's home arena because of where they live, which is why NFTs are an incredible way to engage their global fan base. The Warriors NFT collection featured benefits like a ride on the Warriors championship float, autographed memorabilia, and playoff tickets.

Connects Fans with Athletes

Just like organizations are using NFTs to connect with fans, athletes are using blockchain technology to connect with their fans as well. Mobley declaring for the draft through an NFT is just the beginning. Fans of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have had the opportunity to buy NBA Top Shot moments that commemorate famous events from their playing history, with some NBA Top Shot NFTs selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Even athletes like Rob Gronkowski are riding the NFT wave. He took a viral moment and created a “Champion Series NFT Collection” with tokenized cards featuring in-game action shots, driving $1.8 Million in sales.

New Revenue Streams

By selling new experiences, exclusive access, and other collectibles, organizations or athletes generate additional revenue from fans and collectors. These revenue streams have the potential to be lucrative. As an indication of the popularity of NFTs in sports, NBA Top Shot, the digital NFT video highlights platform, has surpassed over $1 billion in sales.

NFTs have ongoing revenue potential, and creators can continue to innovate on offerings. A year after their first NFT launch, the Golden State Warriors released another collection of NFTs tied to the team’s performance, rewarding holders as the team advanced through the playoffs.

The Future of NFTs in Sports

Digital assets are making meaningful strides to connect teams and athletes with fans in a way that was not possible before. The effectiveness of this trend is just the beginning. In the next five years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if digital assets become a top revenue stream for leagues and teams.

Shifting Sports to the Digital World

NFTs provided a shift for fans to reimagine how they consume sports. Amid the pandemic, fans were limited in physical interactions, and NFTs helped create meaningful new fan experiences. It’s only the beginning of what’s possible with NFTs.

Teams, athletes, and others are jumping on the NFT bandwagon and seeing lucrative revenue streams from it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are there sport NFTs?
A: Yes, some of the most popular examples are NBA Top Shot, UFC Strike, and NFL All Day.

Q: Where do you buy NFT sports cards?
A: NFT sports cards are digital versions of trading cards. You can buy NFT sports cards on marketplaces like Sorare, Ebay, OpenSea, Topps NFT, NBATopShot.com, UFCStrike.com, and NFLAllDay.com.

Q: What is a sports NFT?
A: A sports NFT is a sporting-related digital collectible that is unique and cannot be replaced. Sports NFTs can represent sports memorabilia, experiences, merchandise, ticketing, and more. The authenticity of ownership can be verified using blockchain technology.