Both FIFA and its top players are turning to web3 to engage digitally-native generations. Randy Ginsburg explores how the world's most loved sport is exploring what an NFT collection looks like with a price point as low as traditional trading cards.
As the NFT mania continues to swirl, few have embraced web3 as openly as the sports industry. From ticketing to digital collectibles and even virtual mascots, major sports groups around the globe have turned to web3, specifically NFTs, to unlock more meaningful relationships between players and fans. Now, web3 is having its moment on the biggest stage in sport: the World Cup.
During the last World Cup in 2018, NFTs were relatively unknown beyond a small circle of crypto’s early adopters. Four years later, between NFT-powered trading card games, branded NFT collections, and metaverse worlds, FIFA and its players are well aware that web3 matters. The 2022 tournament is not only a stage for the football, it's a stage for experimentation in leveraging new ways to engage eyeballs off the field.
Stemming from their FIFA+ streaming initiative, FIFA launched FIFA+ Collect in September 2021. Closely related to NBA TopShot, FIFA+ Collect is a virtual trading card platform featuring thousands of highlights from the World Cup’s storied 92-year history. Like all NFTs, collectors can showcase their assets in private collections and trade on secondary marketplaces.
Built on Algorand, the initiative kicked off with the launch of 532,980 Genesis Packs containing three randomly chosen iconic moments from past World Cup tournaments. Shortly after followed the Archives Drop containing more old classic highlights from past men’s and women's World Cup games.
The $4.99 price point is noticeably low compared to the broader NFT market that aficionados are used to. Romy Gai, Chief Business Officer at FIFA, explains in a statement how the low price point was an intentional decision. “The packs democratise the ability to own a part of the FIFA World Cup,” he said. “Just like sports memorabilia and stickers, this is an accessible opportunity for fans around the world to engage with their favorite players, moments, and more on new platforms.”
Similar to physical cards, these digital moments are a unique way for the digitally-native generation to own and trade collectibles commemorating their favourite athletes and teams. FIFA has also debuted partnerships with a handful of blockchain companies – Uplandme, Matchday, Phygtl, and Altered State Machine – to launch a collection of mobile and metaverse web3 games.
The goal? Bring the magic of the World Cup to fans everywhere, on any device.
In AI League, a mobile football game created on the Altered State Machine protocol, top performers can earn prizes such as Vivo phones, gaming equipment, and Adidas gift cards.
Meanwhile, fans spend their time in the Upland Metaverse can explore a digital twin of the FIFA World Cup Lusail Stadium in Qatar and surrounding fan villages. All in-metaverse assets have been minted as NFTs and can be bought, sold, and showcased to complete digital collection albums.
“Just like sports memorabilia and stickers, this is an accessible opportunity for fans to engage on new platforms.”
— Romy Gai, Chief Business Officer, FIFA
The world's most famous players have attempted to follow the bandwagon too. In August 2022, Messi launched the Messiverse, his first NFT art collection available on the Ethernity Chain marketplace. The collection sold $3.4 million worth of assets in the first 24 hours, and is being followed by the Time Machine on December 2nd, which guides holders through his historic career. Holders of the collections are entered in a giveaway pool to win signed Messi memorabilia, but otherwise, they offer little utility beyond the art itself.
Not to be left behind, Cristiano Ronaldo has launched the CR7 NFT collection on Binance as part of an exclusive, multi-year partnership with the world’s largest crypto exchange. Comprising 6,645 NFTs of various rarities, the CR7 collection features seven animated statues depicting an iconic moment in Ronaldo’s career. Holders are rewarded with various perks, including the opportunity to win exclusive merch and autographed memorabilia, and a personalised video greeting from the Portuguese striker.
However, despite both players’ comments about using NFTs as a way to ‘reward fans’ for their support, both collections lack the thoughtfulness and utility needed to thrive in this market. While the reach of both stars will likely ensure their success, it is important to note that very few athletes succeed whilst only selling branded art and offering a limited number of giveaways.
With a floor price of under $3, Ronaldo's collection is priced similarly to FIFA+ Collect, and indicates not only how collections with this level of utility are priced, but also what NFT collections might look like when accompanied by price points closer to physical trading cards than more developed NFT projects.
Whether it’s through providing exclusive access, offering special perks, or crafting interactive experiences to reward their fans, athletes and teams have a unique opportunity to onboard new sports fans to web3. It’s up to them to make it worthwhile.
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