While there may be benefits in integrating nonfungible tokens (NFTs) within the world of sports, there are also challenges for athletes who want to get in, requiring time and effort when diving into the world of Web3.
Tom Fleetham, head of business development for sports and gaming at Zilliqa, said that among the sports organizations he worked with, many needed to improve the experience and monetization for international fans who could never visit stadiums. In addition, younger audiences like Gen Z had different behaviors from previous generations, suggesting that a modern approach may be required in tapping this market. The executive believes that NFTs can play a role in overcoming such challenges. Fleetham explained:
“I believe that NFTs can play a big role in overcoming both of these challenges. International fans want to feel closer to their team, and the opportunity to own NFTs that provide exclusive access, products and experiences is a huge untapped opportunity.”
However, while there are benefits to jumping into the NFT space, Fleetham explained that sports organizations or athletes need to spend enough time to understand the intricacies behind creating their NFT projects. The executive pointed toward the recent NFT debacle of the basketball star Dwight Howard, when the athlete jumped into the crypto space, seemingly unprepared.
On Jan. 19, Howard announced an NFT drop on the Avalanche blockchain. However, the entire project was a miss, only attracting a handful of buyers and eventually being pulled back for a redesign. The project attracted criticisms from community members, with Howard even being accused by crypto detective ZachXBT of performing a rug pull.
— ZachXBT (@zachxbt) January 30, 2024
Fleetham described Howard’s project as a “complete disaster,” which left fans underwhelmed and out of pocket. “Any athlete considering NFTs needs to take a very active role to ensure that every aspect of the project represents their brand in a way they’re comfortable with.” In addition, the executive said that the art, utility, marketing and tokenomics must be executed properly. If not, the reputational downside exceeds any potential commercial benefits.
Cointelegraph reached out to Dwight Howard for comment but has yet to receive a response.
While some athletes may have trouble with their NFT forays, others seem to have it figured out. On Jan. 26, football star Cristiano Ronaldo demonstrated one of the use cases for NFTs, which is fan engagement. The footballer trained with fans who are holders of his NFTs, giving them tips on improving in the sport.
Altava Group chief marketing officer Oh Thongsrinoon said Ronaldo being involved in Web3 could eventually spur other athletes into joining in. Thongsrinoon explained:
“Having one of the most recognized names in the world like Ronaldo being involved, it’s likely a matter of time for other athletes. In my opinion, once the crypto bull run starts in earnest, we should see more involvement from athletes.”
The executive, who works with brands trying to connect with Web3, also explained that NFTs have the potential to foster a deeper connection between athletes and sports teams and their fan bases, as sports is the “kind of hobby that elicits passionate feelings from fans.”