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The Sports Industry Is Using Web3 To Forge A Deeper Connection With Fans


Vohara Gunaratna

Vohara is the Chief Revenue Officer, as well as a Co-founder, at ethos. With previous experience helping consumer brands adopt new technology, Vohara is passionate about helping brands engage and communicate with consumers.

Vohara is the Chief Revenue Officer, as well as a Co-founder, at ethos. With previous experience helping consumer brands adopt new technology, Vohara is passionate about helping brands engage and communicate with consumers.

Sports fandom is in a state of transformation. From virtual reality to augmented reality, the world of professional sports has embraced the digital age with open arms. This evolution is not a mere possibility for the distant future; it's our reality, and it's gaining momentum.

Central to this transformation is the rise of digital assets. These innovative tools serve as the foundation for our increasingly digital experiences, enhancing and enriching our interactions with the sporting world.

The emergence of the connection between NFTs and the sporting industry gained massive popularity with NBA Top Shot. This pioneering campaign allowed sports fans to purchase and own real, memorable moments from their favourite athletes and games within the NBA. Since then, we’ve seen a variety of leagues adopt this technology.

Let's dive into five ways that digital assets are supercharging sports franchises, amplifying their reach and revolutionizing the way we experience sports.

1. Bringing Fans Closer to the Game

One of the main advantages of digital assets is that they can bring fans closer to the game by allowing them to own a piece of the action.

For example, the Australian Open launched a world-first NFT art collection called AO Art Ball, which linked 6,776 unique generative artworks to 19cm x 19cm plots of each tennis court surface. When winning shots from any of the matches would land on a plot, the owner of the NFT linked to that plot would receive exclusive benefits, including the ability to potentially claim the physical ball used during the point and two free tickets to the same match at next year’s tournament. Each NFT owner would also get access to a range of perks, such as tickets to different sporting events, exclusive AO merchandise and wearables, bonus points with partners like Marriott Hotels, signed equipment, and more. For the 2023 event, digital asset holders were even able to claim a pair of complementary Seven Day Ground Passes for week two of the tournament.

AO Artball Complimentary Ground Pass (Photo: Business Wire)

This created a novel and exciting way for fans to participate in the tournament and own a piece of history. The digital assets for the 2022 Australian Open sold out, and the 2023 collection is also going strong, garnering tons of positive attention.

2. Rewarding Loyalty with NFTs

Another benefit of digital assets is that they can be used to reward loyal fans with exclusive perks and benefits.

For instance, NFTs can be used as a funnel for rewarding ticket holders, giving them access to:

  • Special merchandise
  • VIP experiences
  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • And more

This can increase fan retention and satisfaction, as well as create a sense of community and belonging among NFT holders.

For example, Bleacher Report’s B/R Drop Zone allows fans to earn tokens by reading articles, watching videos, commenting, and sharing content on social media. These tokens can then be used to enter raffles for exclusive digital assets featuring original artwork inspired by sports culture and personalities. These digital assets also grant access to special experiences, such as meeting athletes or attending games.

3. Tokenizing Memorabilia and Collectibles

Digital assets can also be used to tokenize memorabilia and collectibles, such as jerseys, autographs, trophies, and more. By creating digital twins of these items, they can be verified for authenticity and scarcity.

This can enhance their value and appeal, as well as create new markets and opportunities for trading and collecting. Additionally, tokenized memorabilia and collectibles can have embedded utility, such as unlocking digital content or experiences related to the item.

For example, Manchester City Football Club created a digital asset collection called “1”, which featured artworks inspired by the club’s history, culture, and players. The collection was auctioned off, with all proceeds going to Cityzens Giving, the club’s global community initiative.

4. Fundraising in a New and Innovative Way

Many sports teams have a charity that they support and raise funds for:

Digital assets can offer a creative and engaging way to raise funds for those and other charitable organizations. For example, digital assets can be used to create limited-edition collectibles that can be auctioned off or sold to raise money for a cause.

The NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) collaborated with Dapper Labs to create NFL All Day, a platform that allows fans to buy, sell, and play games for rare digital highlight collectibles from their favorite NFL players and teams. The platform also includes a social impact component, where fans can donate to causes supported by NFL players or participate in charitable campaigns led by players.

5. Enhance Ticketing with Digital Assets

Digital assets provide unique features that can be both immersive and interactive, which in turn elevates the fan experience.

It gives fans exclusive access to digital content, behind-the-scenes access, and the chance to share moments from the game.

These captivating elements foster deeper fan engagement, create loyal communities and enhance the overall game-day experience.

This is what Ticketmaster has done with their partnership with the NFL. Fans have the ability to collect virtual commemorative tickets to games that they have attended throughout the season.

The tickets can also be traded or sold for over 100 different regular and postseason games.

Digital Assets Are the Future of Sports

NFTs will continue to play a vital role in the future of sports.

Digital assets can bring fans closer to your brand or team, create new revenue streams for you, support your social causes, and elevate your game day experience.

These are just some of the ways digital assets are transforming the sports landscape and creating exciting opportunities for sports brands.

As technology and sports become inextricably intertwined, the organizations, leagues, and teams that adapt will win.

If you’d like to get a head start on the future, get in touch with us at