As Web3 has hit the mainstream this past year, it has brought sports and sports fans with it. Crypto companies like Crypto.com and FTX have pumped fortunes into naming stadiums and advertising behind home plate at baseball games. Crypto sponsorship dollars topped $200 million across the leading five pro sports leagues in the U.S, according to Axios. And that’s before you consider massive overseas markets, like the English Premier League in soccer, where startups are lining up to adorn jerseys and advertising hoardings.
This piece is part of CoinDesk's Sports Week.
The crypto industry promises new forms of engagement, handing fans the chance to participate in new types of quizzes, challenges and experiences. It also promises big money. Socios, which is working with many leading soccer clubs, told Premier League teams they could make an additional $180 from each fan token holder, a huge sum when many fans are already over-extended in outlays to their favorite clubs.
Meanwhile every major athlete, it seems, from Tom Brady to Megan Rapinoe has issued their own non-fungible tokens (NFT). Though, as reported by George Kaloudis, prices for these digital assets have fallen hard during the crash, there’s no lack of enthusiasm: NFTs give sports stars another way to engage with fan bases outside the control of teams or leagues.
Projects like Socios – arguably just a turbo-charged loyalty rewards scheme – are a glimpse of what’s possible. More ambitious are decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) for sports that could give fans a say over club management, player recruitment, the styling of sportswear and even ownership. Though DAOs haven’t yet bought a major pro sports team, there have been attempts (notably in the case of the National Football League's Denver Broncos), and, as Jeff Wilser details in a new feature, games like golf and yachting all have prominent DAO projects.
The big question going forward isn’t just how clubs and athletes can use Web3 to generate revenue and engage with fans. It’s what fans themselves might do with the technology to impact how sports is run. Few activities in life generate as much loyalty and excitement as sports. When participatory networks, like DAOs, harness that, the combination could be … game changing.
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