Economic coup, expanded fan community, attraction of sponsors... NFT, a new Eldorado in the world of sports?

Economic coup, expanded fan community, attraction of sponsors… NFT, a new Eldorado in the world of sports?

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They are not the first but they are far from the last. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) launches, on Tuesday, May 17, its first pre-sale collection of NFTs for its licensees, ahead of a public sale on Thursday. NFTs, an acronym for “non-fungible token”, which means “non-fungible token” in French, are the new business that is terrorizing the sports community.

Clearly, NFTs are digital objects that it can take various forms, such as an image, a map or a video. Each edited NFT is unique. To guarantee their authenticity, these NFTs have tamper-proof ownership titles, based on blockchain technology (the one that identifies cryptocurrency exchange transactions). Most of the time, NFTs are sold on dedicated platforms and the purchase is made in bitcoin or ether, two of the competing cryptocurrencies. As with graded works of art, NFTs can be resold and appreciate in value.

NFTs have established themselves as real investments, far beyond sports. the Leading NFT trading site OpenSea grew from a few tens of millions of dollars in NFT sales in early 2021 to more than $10 billion in November of the same year, a record.

“In addition to finance and the ‘tech’ sector, luxury and sports are the sectors that invest the most in NFTs.”

Julien Pillot, economist, professor at Inseec and specialist in technology markets

Why ? “Simply because they have the most obvious application areas,” answers Julien Pillot, economist, professor at Inseec and specialist in technological markets. Like any investment, NFTs are not without risk and rely on speculation. In fact, when you buy an NFT, no one can say how its value will evolve. In the same way, cryptocurrencies, which allow exchanges, depend on a volatile price.

This argument, however, did not discourage the sports community. Since 2018-2019, more and more players from the world of sports, clubs, sports federations or athletes, have been investing in these digital assets. At the moment, only highly publicized sports such as football, rugby, basketball, tennis or even cycling have tried their luck.

In 2021, the NBA released its NFT collection in the form of a few seconds of video clips showing the action of the game that marked the history of the American league. French start-up Sorare has seen great success with its collectible NFT cards of some 6,000 footballers, also known as virtualized Panini cards. This company was valued at almost 4,000 million euros in the fall of 2021.

The FFT will launch its 5,000 NFT collection on Tuesday, May 17. Each of them will represent a numbered seat of the Philippe-Chatrier court, with a unique design for each one. Specificity of this project: the purchase of NFTs will be made, not in cryptocurrencies, but in euros by credit card on a site dedicated to Roland-Garros. “We’re deliberately cautious on this project, we don’t want to rush things and take chances on mechanics we don’t really know well yet,” specifies Amélie Oudéa-Castera, general manager of the FFT.

Unlike spin-offs that brands only sell once, NFTs can be resold ad infinitum. And the point is that with each resale of the NFT, the creator can receive a percentage. “An NFT is a computer program, which is worth a contract. The creator of the NFT can dictate the rule that with each resale, the club and/or the player whose image has been used, recovers a percentage of the committed amount”, explains the economist Julien Pillot.

“Every project has its strategic goals. NFTs and blockchain are just one technology. Depending on who you are and what your goals are, you will use them in different ways.”

Julien Pillot, economist and professor at Inseec and specialist in technology markets

Indeed whathen the NBA broadcasts the best moments in the league’s history on video in the form of NFTs, their goal is to find an additional communication channel to get the NBA talked about, but also to find enough additional revenue.

If NFTs are a a means of creating new sources of income for clubs and associations, however, they have other advantages. “NFTs also make it possible to create fan engagement with brands, especially those who are distant, who they are not used to going to the stadium and that they consume sports in another wayand this is a real challenge today for clubs and competition brands”, developed by Magali Tézenas du Montcel, specialist in sports economics and general delegate of Sponsora (reference organization to think about and influence the development of sports economics).

For this reason, the purchase of NFTs includes, in most cases, exclusive benefits for the holder. A way to create a digital link with fans, and integrate them, more or less, into the life of the club or a competition. This is the challenge of the NFT project launched on May 25 (pre-sale, public sale on May 26) by the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club, a football club that plays in Nacional 1.

“Our goal is to create a crypto community, testifies Marc Dubois, the president of the club. We are in favor of digital approaches because we are in a territory with a limited population, and this operation is clearly part of an approach to improve and promote the club, for its development. The purchase of one of the 11,011 unique NFT cards from 0.05 ether (ie 133.99 euros) with the image of the club’s mascot, the Ardennes boar, will allow buyers to benefit from gifts, participate in contests or participate in physical and virtual club events.

The goal is the same for the French Tennis Federation. Buyers of a digital seat at the Central will have access to a club in which a series of exclusive advantages will be reserved for them: the possibility of earning match points played at the Central during the 2022 edition, VIP tickets for Roland-Garros and for the Rolex Paris Masters, personalized visits to the venue or meetings with players from the circuit.

Stade Français, the first Top 14 club to join the NFT last March, chose another option. After offering for sale cards with the image of the club and its players, the club wants to go further. “Our NFTs will be backed by a fantasy game (game in which participants take on the role of sports team owners and challenge other players based on the results of real players and teams, editor’s note) for the next season, a first in the oval, announces Georges-Henry Bediou, director of development and communication of the club. The cards will have a double function: a collection function, which is the traditional function of NFTs, and they can also have an in-game function.”

A double function that will therefore add additional value to these NFTs depending on performance. “We can cover this with a lot of little marketing talk, like creating a new community or attracting new audiences, but the reason for these various projects is mostly economic,” argues the economist Julien Pillot.

These new communities are of interest to both large and small clubs, and for good reason, as an expanded community is a major asset to sponsors. “If your fan base is bigger, you will monetize it with partners, and this will indirectly generate income for the clubs,” translates Magali Tézenas du Montcel, specialist in sports economics.

In addition, the NFT approach is part of a broader logic, that of the diversification of the economy of sport. “The We must rethink the economic model of football clubs, whether professional or amateur. All clubs are in trouble. points out the president of the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club, Marc Dubois.

“At Sedan, if we hadn’t started an innovation process, the club would have a hard time surviving.”

Marc Dubois, President of the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club

If the covid pandemic and its financial repercussions have been able to trigger certain dynamics, “However, nothing demonstrates a cause and effect relationship for this enthusiasm for NFTs,” supports the economist Julien Pillot. “LThe primary factor of our project is this increasingly bubbling innovation in the world of NFTs. We didn’t want to be left out.” recognizes Amélie Oudéa-Castera. The next step, the metaverse, that is, the virtual world, which athletes are beginning to appropriate? “That’s actually the next thought. Metaverse is part of our roadmap.” The world of sport, therefore, has not finished reinventing itself.

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