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Digital Touchdown: Fan Engagement in Sports with NFTs and Immersive Commerce

METAV.RS / Digital Touchdown: Fan Engagement in Sports with NFTs and Immersive Commerce
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As we delve into the era of Web3 and NFTs, the sports industry is undergoing a seismic shift. This shift isn’t just about game viewership but also about redefining the approach to fan engagement. From leveraging NFTs to loyalty programs, and even using cutting-edge digital twin technology to recreate iconic sports stadiums with Immersive Commerce (3D and AR), the race is on for sports teams to get into the game. 

Replicating stadiums with Digital Twin Technology

Digital Twin Technology has immense potential to revolutionize fan interactions by replicating a stadium or an arena in the metaverse. This cutting-edge technology enables the creation of photorealistic digital twins, seamlessly integrating mobile AR and desktop 3D. For stadiums, it ensures a complete digital replica, from seats to scoreboards to the field. Sports teams can, thus, provide their fans with an unreal viewing experience that surpasses traditional physical boundaries. Integrating features like 360-degree views, interactive elements through gamification, and real-time statistics can elevate a fan’s experience and in turn, increase the club’s revenue streams. 

It also offers an opportunity to monetize international fan bases and opens potential virtual advertising and sponsorship avenues, allowing brands to target audiences without relying on physical signs. The capability to monitor engagement and interactions lets advertisers gauge a more precise ROI on their investments.From baseball to football, numerous sports teams are adopting these technologies. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Manchester City x Sony

In 2021, Manchester City announced its plans to create the first football stadium in the metaverse. A replica of its iconic stadium, Etihad, the stadium promises to offer City fans globally the experience of viewing matches as though they’re right there in the stands, all while enjoying the comfort of their own sofa. Nuria Tarre, Chief Marketing and Fan Engagement Officer of City Football Group, said, “I believe the image of someone sitting on a couch watching a screen will be obsolete in ten years, if not five.” This is why City has dived headfirst into the metaverse with this futuristic project. Tarre adds, “The whole point of owning a metaverse is to be able to watch the games live, be part of the action from various angles, and fill Etihad Stadium as much as you want.” True to its word, the virtual replica showcased in a “proof of concept” seems to be accessible even from a mobile device. This also opens the possibility of having unlimited seating and improving community building. Fans will be able to interact with others via their digital custom avatars and even take a tour of the stadium in the metaverse. 

By deploying digital twin technology, METAV.RS excels in creating immersive miniverses that can be seamlessly integrated into e-commerce websites, accessible on any device (laptop,  smartphone etc.), without the need for additional applications.

Atlanta Braves x Surreal Events

In May 2022, the American baseball team unveiled an online replica of its stadium,  Truist Park, and became the first MLB sports team to do so. Inside the virtuL park, fans will be able to custom make their own avatars and have access to exclusive team content, and meet-and-greets with the players. They plan to keep adding gamified elements to their space through Easter eggs and contests and minigames.Josh Rush, CEO of Surreal, added in an interview “the Braves are taking a long-term approach to really exploring what this looks like for them as an organization, and how it could change the way fans experience baseball online.”

Atlanta Brave 3D/AR stadium

NFT Launches

NFTs offer a unique digital ownership proposition, where each token can represent a rare piece of content, memorabilia, or experience. For sports teams, they offer the platform for innovative fan engagement tools. These NFT drops keep things fresh in the ecosystem, adding greater utility to tokens and ensuring players remain engaged. They create unconventional revenue streams for the teams as well.  Liverpool’s first NFT collection “LFC Heroes Club” which contains the visual illustrations of its 24-star players was expected to bring a return of over $11 million to the club. 

NFT Sports tickets are a great invention to reduce online ticketing fraud and also render the possibility of being turned into tradable NFT cards in the future. For example, the National Football League in partnership with Ticketmaster issued NFT tickets to the attendees of the Super Bowl 2022.  

Read about other sports brands in the metaverse: NFTs in Sports – Exploring their Immense Growth in NFT Activation

Rugby Club Toulonnais x Doors Sport x Tailor NFT

In 2023, the RCT platform introduced its Web3 strategy with collector tickets as digital memorabilia. RCT’s “Pour l’éternité” NFT collection can be accessed via QR codes scattered across the stadium and online platforms. Fans can freely collect or buy these tickets for €5, unlocking perks like complimentary drinks, exclusive campus tours, and player interactions. A dedicated Discord community was also launched to facilitate communication and the NFT Collection saw about 4500 digital collectibles minted and 1000+ discord members.

RCT - rugby team's nfts for fan engagement

FC Barcelona 

In 2022, the famous football club, FC Barcelona released its first ever NFT in an auction at Sotheby’s. The auction for the NFT, featuring an audiovisual digital artwork recreating Johan Cruyff’s legendary stadium moment on 22 December 1973, was closed with a bid of $693,000. It was linked to utilities, such as meet & greets, visits to La Masia, right to play at the Spotify Camp Nou and official handover of the ball before some friendly match.

Then in 2023, building on the success of their first NFT, the legendary club collaborated with ‘World of Women’ in the creation of the digital artwork. This token featured Alexia Putellas and was auctioned on OpenSea for $300,231. 

Loyalty Programs in the Metaverse

Sports fans can be considered as some of the most loyal and engaged out there. This provides an immense opportunity for sports teams to further capitalize and monetize their engagement by creating synergies between NFTs collections and existing loyalty programs. Some of the ways to do this are:

  • Encourage a wide audience to join the community, including fans of the club, online followers, media subscribers, and sponsors’ clientele. 
  • Distribute complimentary tokens as “entry passes” for exclusive access to members to the NFT launches and respective Discord channel.
  • Cultivate engagement in the community by introducing programs that allow fans to collect loyalty points. 
  • Reward the active participants in these communities by offering discounted merchandise, discounted tickets, or exclusive events like meet-ups.
  • Prioritize fan engagement over NFT valuation, and ensure the avoidance of online discussions about token worth or speculative practices.

Manchester United x Tezos

Manchester United NFT Loyalty programs for fan engagement

A Discord community of 100,000 members, Manchester United has been successful in integrating its loyalty program into the metaverse. Launched in 2022, the legendary football team joined forces with Tezos blockchain for their first web3 project. The first NFT Collection gave away 750,000 tokens in just 4 days to its loyal fans and offered exclusive access to the discord channel. This, in turn, offered them exclusive rights to secure the limited “Red Devil” NFT collection; all 7777 NFTs were successfully minted. Though smaller than its boastful social media counterpart, the Discord community offered loyalty rewards, such as meet and greets, signed player kits and VIP matchday tickets.

“Much like the football traditions of old, such as collecting match programmes, club badges and sticker books, fans will soon have the additional option to collect this new type of digital memorabilia,” said Phil Lynch, chief executive of digital products and experiences at Manchester United.

If you’re now considering the deployment of your NFT launch, look no further than METAV.RS. By leveraging our Utility Manager, you can effortlessly associate utilities with your NFTs, a strategic move to recruit and engage with new audiences from Gen Z and Millenials. 

We have done the same for luxury brands like Michelin and Le Bristol and you could be the next!