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Forget the Wiring, Sell the Feeling: Web3 for Sports Fans

Updated: Feb 29

A fan claiming an NFT from home after a match in which something iconic happened

As fans, we all spend a lot of time on X, Insta and so on. We refer to these as our ‘socials’. We don’t call it web 2.0 any more. Facebook didn’t sell us web 2.0. It sold, and we embraced the engagement it enabled. And, in 2024, that's what we need for web3 in sports: sell the value and the feeling, not the wiring.

But how? Two challenges remain. First, many ecosystems already gamify loyalty and engagement without blockchain, so why switch? Second, we can't offer value on the blockchain without fans seeing their wallet; the window into the digital assets they own.

The wallet, and getting wallets, on behalf of clubs, teams, stars, leagues and associations, into the hands of fans, such that they can move them from device to device, or recover them when they lose them, is an onboarding journey that is hard to sell without diving into technical jargon, especially if the value exchange isn’t apparent.

Imagine a business taking an anonymised view of my real world wallet. They’d be able to build a picture of me beyond the money it holds. Tickets, loyalty and membership cards, drivers licence, medical cards. Photo booth pictures of me and the kids. Different levels of actual value alongside priceless memories. Memories that might trigger, or be an indicator to future behaviour. Obviously we’ve got to be mindful of privacy and security, but the analogy points to the emotional value we need to extract from blockchain wallets for web3 to work in sports.

Memory Montage

If April’s Bitcoin halving sparks a sustained bull run, then we must be careful this time not to overhype, or let our business customers become obsessed with the sellable value of tokens. We need to capitalise on what the upside does for consumer adoption of crypto, but ensure that when the bubble bursts, value is quantified by the quality of the collection of tokens fans hold. If we tie success to an unsustainable token price, then engagement will suffer when the bull run ends.

Sports teams or stars, who drive emotional value through engaged tribal communities, can leverage this perfectly. They’re increasingly able to pin-point a fan to the time and place of something iconic. They can sustain that memory digitally with the right data, pictures - video even from the nearest camera - commentary from broadcast, from socials. They just need to capture and bundle it and give fans a vehicle to cherish it.

If clubs are to successfully abstract this storage vehicle in fans’ minds away from the blockchain wallet, then the key to a smooth onboarding experience may lay in integrating token addresses with what they use for digital identity today. Make all accounts blockchain-ready, pre-load some memories, and save fans the hassle. Some fans, like heavy social media users, will likely end up with multiple wallets, so clubs should allow them to associate these with their profiles too. This move may prove critical, especially as major tech entities like Apple and Google are likely to aim to dominate the blockchain wallet experience.

Abstract of concept

The fan value prop is the ownership of that evolving digital memory box - and not just for sports, as other lifestyle providers will capitalise on this too. Given these won’t all be on the same chain, clubs shouldn’t worry too much just now about which chain to use. The value to the clubs will be the ability to target promotions and cross-sell to any wallet owner, based on the memories within it, or to target addresses that have minted specific memories. It doesn’t even matter if they don’t know the wallet owner, as an engaged fan is more likely to bite at the right offer.

This is the web3 conversation we need. Token generation cost is key to determining

viability for clubs, but the token's value lies in representing a moment and what it links to, not its monetary worth.

Despite potential concerns—environmental impacts, privacy, scalability, regulation, fraud, adoption and interoperability challenges—the focus should remain on this broader vision and opportunity.

We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If a bull run is coming, let’s ride that wave, rather than be swept away by it, waiting for the next one.

Alick Mighall has spent the last 3 years in leading product roles for blockchain and sports tech start ups and is currently pursuing some fan engagement initiatives with web3 front of mind.

Twitter and Instagram: @miggle Miggle on Medium

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