New York Rangers fan David Arends had never bought an NFT, but when he learned his favorite hockey team was throwing a set of digital tokens to commemorate the retirement of legendary goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, he thought this might be a unique addition to his collection of jerseys, pucks and other sports memorabilia.
For $20 each, Arends bought two NFTs: images of tickets to Lundqvist’s 15-year career with Rangers party, when a banner bearing the player’s name was hoisted to the top from Madison Square Garden to the applause of the fans. Arends would later print out screenshots of the NFTs and have them framed, hanging them on his wall alongside a signed photograph of the goalkeeper.
“I’ll never trade it or anything like it’s mine, and I’ll keep it,” Arends said. Decrypt. “To me, it’s more of a sentimental thing.”
The sports world is increasingly saturated with cryptocurrency advertisementsponsorships and collaborations every day, and these seem to be pushing more people into the Web3 space.
A recent Seton Hall University investigation of 1,500 American adults shows a growing overlap between sports fans and people who have purchased NFTs or cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The survey found that 57% of households with a sports fan owned digital assets, more than double the rate of households without one at just 24%.
“Although we are in the early stages of owning crypto and NFT, sports fans have shown a real inclination to engage in these markets,” said Daniel Ladik, Seton Hall marketing professor and methodologist for surveys.
Celebrities such as Matt Damon that have appeared in advertisements promoting cryptocurrency likely have something to do with it. The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched TV events of the year, and this year’s game spots included from eToro, Crypto.com and FTX seen at home by more than 100 million US viewers, according to Nielsen.
Beyond just TV advertising, major crypto companies have also poured money into sponsorships. Crypto.com paid a estimated at $700 million for the naming rights of what was known as Staples Center in Los Angeles. The exchange too reached an agreement with the UFC in 2021 to become the championship’s first fight kit partner, with Crypto.com’s lion head logo emblazoned across the chest of fighters’ uniforms with the center of the Octagon. (Since then, the UFC has also entered into a logo agreement with VeChain.)
Non-fungible tokens– proof of ownership of digital or real items verified by blockchain – have created a new avenue for businesses and sports leagues to connect with fans and transform everything from ticket sales to sneaker photos to music videos into collectibles.
The tradition of collecting baseball cards began in the late 19th century when paper cards displaying baseball players along with statistics were inserted into packets of cigarettes as a promotional tool. Now, for many fans, collectibles have simply gone digital.
The Seton Hall poll found that, overall, people who traded or owned cryptocurrencies and NFTs were mostly between the ages of 18 and 34 (42% of respondents) compared to people aged 55. years or older (only 7%). The survey also found that men (47%) were more likely than women (14%) to have owned or traded cryptocurrencies or NFTs.
“If managed effectively,” Ladik said, “NFTs could become a major source of revenue as well as a new avenue of fan connection for sports brands. In the digital age, interactive assets such as NFTs can create a sense of equity and belonging for holders, key attributes of brand success.”
The NFLNBA and cfu all have ventured into the NFT space, working with Dapper Labs to create NFL All Day, NBA best shotand UFC Strike on top of Dapper’s Flow blockchain.
NBA Top Shot was one of the first NFT projects with the blessing of a major sports league, and it recently surpassed $1 billion in total sales volume, according to Cryptoslam.
Dapper Labs projects aren’t the only sports-centric collectibles hosted on Flow. The consumer-oriented nature of blockchain was what led NFT genius founder Jeremy Born to create the Gia Marketplace and make it the ecosystem for Ballerza collection of pixelated basketball players that primarily serve as PFPs (profile pictures).
“If you create more friction, which the crypto space has known for 10 years, it keeps a lot of these people out,” Born said. Decrypt, noting that some crypto wallets with complicated setup processes can turn off potential users. “It’s very intimidating for the average person to go in and try to figure out Metamask.”
Born pointed out that NFTs are driving crypto adoption not only among sports fans, but also athletes themselves.
Among those who took Show off The NFTs on Twitter are icons like Steph Curry and Von Miller. And Tom Brady has his own company NFT called Autograph which is in partnership with DraftKings Marketplace.
If the former “flex” posted photos posing with fancy cars and fancy watches, Born argued that the new status symbol for professional athletes could be a bored monkey. It’s only natural that fans would want a PFP flex as well.
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