Blockchain: Blockchain gives sports clubs a lucrative way to increase their fandom

Synopsis

Prominent sports clubs (Manchester City, Barcelona, PSG) and leagues worldwide are already using blockchain technology in their digital strategies. Blockchain use-cases in sports allow teams to unlock new profitable income streams and develop new ways to engage with their fans.

Siddharth Jaiswal

Founder & CEO, SportZchain

Siddharth is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for sports and blockchain technology, including cryptocurrency. He commenced his entrepreneurial journey by founding startups like ADSONCAB.COM and The Sepoi. Over 14 years of extensive experience and in-depth knowledge in corporate strategy, private equity, entrepreneurial ecosystem, Blockchain and passion for sports helped him lay the foundation for SportZchain.

The sports industry has been undergoing tremendous transformations in the last few years. The rise of the digital-native fan and the events of 2020 decimating ticket revenue for live events prompted both the sports and the esports industries to explore alternative revenue streams and find creative ways to maintain fan engagement, while combating fraud and corruption. This scenario created space for new players leveraging new-age technologies to change the course of history. One such tech advancement is blockchain, whose introduction has changed the basic paradigms of the traditional sports industry.

Blockchain technology can effectively assist sports teams in monetising their fan base and strengthening fan engagement effortlessly. Blockchain isn’t a future technology. It is a 21st century technology that is needed and should be used to its full potential under the current circumstances.

Prominent sports clubs (Manchester City, Barcelona, PSG) and leagues worldwide are already using blockchain technology in their digital strategies. Blockchain use-cases in sports allow teams to unlock new profitable income streams and develop new ways to engage with their fans. From fan tokens to fan event monitoring and loyalty networks, the overall sports ecosystem was never this transparent, seamless and easy going for either players or fans.
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Against this backdrop, here are a few ways blockchain has changed the fundamental dynamics of our sports industry:

Increasing global fan engagement through tokens
The introduction of fan tokens is one of the primary ways blockchain is making a difference. These digital tokens serve as a club’s virtual money, which fans can buy using fiat (government-issued) currencies like dollars, pounds and euros. Fan tokens can be exchanged for items, collectables, and memorable experiences for fans. Users may also utilise their tokens as a ticket into a secure, exclusive inner circle of fans with shared passions and values to participate in fan-led choices via a mobile voting platform. With these distinctive tokens, fans and sports enthusiasts inadvertently feel more connected to their teams, even from afar.

Today, nationally and internationally, many popular clubs and leagues are flourishingly using fan tokens to monetise their fan base revenue and enhance engagement. In fact, in 2020, the first round of exclusive FC Barcelona fan tokens, worth $1.3 million, sold out in less than two hours. The fans who owned these tokens got a chance to participate in surveys related to the club. One such opportunity was to vote for a mural design that would decorate the first-team’s locker room.

However, it is important for fan token companies and clubs to make sure that these fan tokens are not used just as a medium of monetisation for clubs but the real value of fan engagement and fan decision making is activated and delivered for long-term value generation for all stakeholders, especially the fans.

Rewarding fans on engagement sites
Blockchain can be used to construct fan engagement platforms. Sports teams and clubs can build loyalty programmes on these platforms. They can reward supporters for generating and sharing content and amassing points or awards, which can be used to purchase merchandise, tickets and digital collectables. Such platforms assist in promoting a feeling of community and belonging among supporters, while also fortifying the club’s connection with sponsors. This is because the open nature of the technology allows for seamless sharing of fan engagement data with advertisers and assists them in generating a better return on investment.

Eliminating ticket fraud from the equation
Ticket touting and counterfeiting have been two prevalent issues that have worried the sports industry for ages. Gradually, in their search for more effective solutions, many sports teams have found the perfect solution in blockchain. The transparency of the technology allows anyone to verify a ticket’s validity and trace it back to the club to guarantee its authenticity. Blockchain also facilitates ticket transfers by allowing peer-to-peer transfers without the need for intermediaries. This enables fans who are unable to attend an event to transfer their tickets safely without penalty fees or central actors. This is also true for postponed or cancelled athletic events, making rescheduling a lot simpler for everyone.

Increasing shareholder confidence in esports
Multiple investors, including game creators, sponsors, team management, players and the media, are involved in esports. This necessitates many transactions, which requires the repetition of information for each side. Intermediaries are also essential as it is impractical for one party to keep track of such extensive data. The decentralised nature of blockchain can provide a single platform to link all these parties, allowing stakeholders to interact without mediators. In fact, on the back of programmable smart contracts, blockchain enables a more fluid procedure for transferring players, prize money or media rights. This builds confidence, eliminates concerns about prize money or payments being distributed unfairly, and creates a sense of togetherness and trust.

Trading cards for the digital age
Trading cards and souvenirs have traditionally been a lucrative source of income for sports teams. However, a burgeoning digital-native fan base (inspired by gaming and esports) necessitates a shift to digital collectables. Clubs can now keep up with shifting consumer trends and promote a broader appeal by generating digital trading cards and souvenirs that fans can buy and swap according to their convenience. Crypto collectables powered by blockchain enable teams to build one-of-a-kind or limited-edition items that can be verified via a secure and transparent digital ledger. Limited-edition player trading cards can also be purchased, or fans could receive rewards for collecting all team players.

In a nutshell
In India, blockchain technology is progressively becoming an integral part of the day-to-day fan-engagement stance of Pro League Kabaddi, Indian Premier League (IPL) and sports teams and individuals. Internationally, high-end football players such as Lionel Messi as well as NBA teams, sports clubs and esports are leveraging this newfound innovation to unlock unprecedented profits and revenue streams. Recently, legendary tennis player Serena Williams joined a fantasy soccer game platform as a board advisor, proving that blockchain technology is the modern hot-stove league of the sports industry and will continue to prove its mettle for days to come.
Now, the stage is set, the players are ready. It is just a matter of time before the game begins and we witness revitalised fan engagement powered by digital solutions for the digital era.
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Updated: 02/23/2022 — 15:00