In his monthly crypto tech column, Israeli serial entrepreneur Ariel Shapira covers emerging technologies within the crypto, decentralized finance (DeFi) and blockchain space, as well as their roles in shaping the economy of the 21st century.
Die-hard sports fans first got a taste of how digital assets could become the next sports memorabilia phenomenon back in June 2020, with the launch of Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot Moments nonfungible token (NFT) collection.
Since then, the pro sports industry has actively capitalized on the NFT craze. That’s not at all a bad thing, considering NFTs solve the digital ownership question once and for all. There’s no reason sports shouldn’t enjoy the democratization this technology brings. There is also the potential, however, for sports giants — franchises, leagues, organizations — to take advantage of fans the way crypto companies have profited from naive investors in the past. That kind of opportunism should be stopped before it becomes the norm.
More likely than not, fans simply won’t tolerate it.
Exploiting fan loyalty
Major sports franchises and leagues are valued at billions of dollars, and the industry as a whole is worth $620 billion. The foundation of this massive amount of wealth is built on the backs of die-hard sports fans, who have deep emotional connections with players, teams and the sports themselves. From $15 beers to $1,000 tickets and expensive cable-sports packages, fans are long used to having their loyalty monetized. Monetization is a normal and healthy part of business, but it must be within the bounds of honorable business, not the kind of profiteering we’ve seen in other crypto trends until now.
The New Jersey Devils became the first National Hockey League team to try and milk the NFT hype last year by launching their own NFTs commemorating their past championships. The Devils, as one of the NHL’s 32 franchises, were able to benefit from that credibility and recognition. Selling branded merchandise such as a sweater jersey commemorating…