Economic gain, expanded fan community, attraction of sponsors … NFTs, a new Eldorado in the world of sports?

They are not the first but far from the last. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) will launch its first NFT collection on pre-sale for its licensees on Tuesday 17 May, ahead of a public sale on Thursday. The NFT, an acronym for “non-fungible token”, which means “non-fungible token” in French, is the new business that is frightening the sports community.

Clearly, NFTs are digital objects that it can take many forms, such as an image, a map, or a video. Each NFT edited is unique. To ensure their authenticity, these NFTs have tamper-proof title deeds, based on blockchain technology (which identifies cryptocurrency exchange transactions). Most of the time, NFTs are sold on dedicated platforms and the purchase is made in bitcoin or ether, two of the competing cryptocurrencies. As with qualifying works of art, NFTs can be resold and valued.

NFTs have established themselves as real investments, far beyond sport. the NFT’s main trading site, OpenSea, went from a few tens of millions of dollars in NFT sales in early 2021 to more than $ 10 billion in November of the same year, a record.

“Apart from finance and the ‘technology’ sector, luxury and sports are the sectors that invest the most in NFT.”

Julien Pillot, economist, professor at INSEEC and specialist in technology markets

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Because ? “Just because they have the most obvious areas of application,” answers Julien Pillot, economist, professor at INSEEC and specialist in technology markets. Like any investment, NFTs are not risk-free and depend on speculation. In fact, when you buy an NFT, no one can tell how its value will evolve. Similarly, cryptocurrencies, which allow exchanges, depend on a volatile price.

This argument, however, did not discourage the sports community. From 2018-2019, more and more players in the world of sports, clubs, sports federations or athletes, are investing in these digital assets. For now, only popular sports such as football, rugby, basketball, tennis or even cycling have tried their luck.

In 2021, the NBA released its NFT collection in the form of video clips of a few seconds showing the action of the game that marked the history of the American league. The French start-up Sorare has been very successful with its collectible NFT cards of about 6,000 players, also known as virtualized Panini cards. This company was valued at about 4 billion euros in the autumn of 2021.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) launches on Tuesday 17 May its collection of 5000 NFTs representing seats on the Philippe-Chatrier court.  (French Tennis Federation)

The FFT will launch its NFT 5,000 collection on Tuesday 17 May. Each will represent a numbered Philippe-Chatrier court seat, with a unique design for each. Specificity of this project: the purchase of NFT will be made, not in cryptocurrencies, but in euros by credit card in a place dedicated to Roland-Garros. “We are deliberately cautious in this project, we do not want to rush and take risks in mechanics that we do not yet know well,” specific Amélie Oudéa-Castera, general director of the FFT.

Unlike derivatives that brands only sell once, NFTs can be resold indefinitely. And the thing is, with every NFT resale, the developer can get a percentage. “An NFT is a computer program, which is worth a contract. The creator of the NFT can issue the rule that with each resale, the club and / or the player whose image has been used, recover a percentage of the committed amount “, explains economist Julien Pillot.

“Each project has its own strategic goals. NFT and blockchain are just a technology. Depending on who you are and what your goals are, you will use them in different ways.”

Julien Pillot, economist and professor at INSEEC and specialist in technology markets

a franceinfo: esport

Indeed, qWhen the NBA broadcasts the best moments in league history in the form of NFT, its goal is both to find an additional channel of communication to make the NBA talk, as well as to find sufficient and substantial additional revenue.

If the NFTs are a a means to create new sources of income for clubs and federations, but they have other advantages. “NFTs also create fan engagement around brands, especially those that are distant, which they are not used to going to the stadium and consume sport differentlyand this is a real challenge today for clubs and competition brands. “ develops Magali Tézenas du Montcel, specialist in sports economics, and general delegate of Sporsora (reference organization for thinking and influencing the development of the economy of sport).

To do this, the purchase of NFT includes, in most cases, exclusive benefits for the holder. A way to create a digital link with the fans, and to integrate them, more or less, into the life of the club or a competition. This is the challenge of the NFT project launched on May 25 (in presale, on the 26th for public sale) by the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club, a football club that plays in the National 1.

“Our goal is to create a cryptocurrency community, witness Marc Dubois, the club president. We favor digital approaches because we are in a territory with a limited population, and this operation is clearly part of an approach of empowerment and promotion of the club, for its development. The purchase of one of the 11,011 unique NFT cards of 0.05 ethers (ie 133.99 euros) with the image of the club’s mascot, the wild boar of the Ardennes, will allow buyers to benefit from gifts, participate in contests or participate in physical and virtual club events. club.

The NFT collection launched by the Ardennes Sedan Sports Club consists of 11,011 cards with the image of the wild boar of the Ardennes, the club's mascot.  Each card is unique, with different details on each card such as accessories, background, layer color, and more.  (Ardennes Sedan Sports Club)

The goal is the same for the French Tennis Federation. Buyers of a digital seat at the Central will have access to a club in which a number of exclusive benefits will be reserved: the possibility of winning match points played at the Central during the 2022 edition, VIP tickets for Roland-Garros and for the Rolex Paris Masters, personalized site visits or meetings with circuit players.

The Stade Français, the first Top 14 club to join the NFT last March, chose another option. After offering cards with the image of the club and its players for purchase, the club wants to go further. “Our NFTs will be supported by a fantasy game (game where participants take on the role of owners of sports teams and challenge other players based on the results of real players and teams, editor’s note) for next season, a first in the oval, announces Georges-Henry Bediou, the club’s director of development and communications. The cards will have a dual function: a pick-up function, which is the traditional function of NFTs, and they can also play a role in the game. “

A dual function that will therefore add value to these NFTs depending on performance. “We can cover it with a lot of small marketing speeches, such as creating a new community or attracting new audiences, but the reason for these different projects is mostly financial.” argues economist Julien Pillot.

These new communities are of interest to both big and small clubs, and for good reason, as an extended community is a great asset to sponsors. “If your fan base is bigger, you will monetize it with members, and this will indirectly generate revenue for the clubs,” translated by Magali Tézenas du Montcel, a specialist in sports economics.

In addition, the NFT approach is part of a broader logic, that of diversifying the sports economy. “He The economic model of football clubs, whether professional or amateur, needs to be rethought. All clubs have problems. points out the president of the Ardennes Sedan Sports Club, Marc Dubois.

“At Sedan, if we hadn’t started an innovation process, the club would have had a hard time surviving.”

Marc Dubois, president of the Ardennes Sedan Sports Club

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If the covid pandemic and its financial repercussions have been able to trigger certain dynamics, “However, there is no evidence of a cause and effect relationship for this NFT enthusiasm.” supports economist Julien Pillot. “LThe key factor in our project is this increasingly powerful innovation in the world of NFTs. We didn’t want to be left out. ” recognizes Amélie Oudéa-Castera. The next step, the metavers, that is, the virtual world, that athletes are beginning to appropriate? “That’s actually the next thought. The metaverse is part of our roadmap.” The world of sports, therefore, has not been completely reinvented.

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