Across the modern scope of entertainment media, sports is the most well-suited to integrate NFTs for fan engagement and interaction. Using NFTs, sports fans can preserve their favorite highlights, represent their favorite teams and players, and even participate in the age-old practice of trading collectibles.
Wondering how that works? Read on for a cursory look at how sports franchises, and (at times) entire sports leagues have approached the practice of NFT adoption in service of enhancing engagement with their respective fanbases.
NBA Top Shot’s vision for the trading cards of the future
Gray markets for collectible trading cards have sprung up to reflect the real-world stakes of nearly every major North American sports league for decades. The NBA is no exception: In recent years, trading cards featuring the league’s most notable players have regularly sold for millions of dollars on the open market. A rookie card for Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic even sold for more than $4 million in February 2021, despite Doncic only reaching his third NBA season at the time of the sale. In light of his early success, the card may bloat in value even further in the coming years.
But what does this all have to do with NFTs? If Web2 had physical trading cards, Web3 has NBA Top Shot. Despite the difficulties the collection faced in 2022, it still stands as a potent reminder of what securing official licenses can do to ensure an NFT collection’s success. Thanks to NBA Top Shot’s official partnership with the NBA, it’s received full access to mint iconic highlights throughout the league’s nearly 80-year history as collectible NFTs for the global NBA fandom.
The official co-sign inevitably led to strong sales for these collectibles, particularly during 2021’s massive bull run. During the peak of NBA Top Shot’s popularity, the collection saw sales of more than $200 million during the months of February and March of 2021. Sales have largely tapered off since then, in line with the rest of the market, but its community has maintained an active interest in what is undoubtedly one of the most straightforward NFT collectibles you can currently score on the market.
The WWE tags in for the knockout
To bring the premise of NBA Top Shot to its logical next step, the WWE decided to offer fans a more immersive way to collect these animated NFT highlights. Through its WWE Moonsault NFT marketplace, fans can enjoy timed drops of 10,000-piece collections called “NFT Flips.”
Each batch of Flips released, in conjunction with the WWE’s latest pay-per-view event, also contains a highlight either from the humble beginnings of the event or its ever-growing prominence in the modern world. The initiative began with an NFT drop coinciding with the 2022’s Hell in a Cell Event, which definitely included one of Reddit’s most enduring memes in its collection. Due to this being a much newer project than NBA Top Shot, it remains to be seen whether it will mirror the former’s long-term performance, or flip on its side entirely. However, if the past couple WWE pay-per-view events are anything to go by, Moonsault is definitely here to stay. A glance at the Moonsault marketplace will show you its Survivor Series-themed drops have all sold out.
Major League Soccer signed a Bored Ape
Of all Major League Soccer signings throughout history, perhaps its most unexpected would be Striker — a Bored Ape. Through this genuinely unique signing, the MLS intended to capitalize on the growing sports NFT movement by providing fans with a unique additional layer of entertainment. Before the signing, Striker was simply known as Bored Ape #6045, whom marketing agency Get Engaged acquired for a healthy sum of 100 ETH. Following that, Striker looked poised to make a dent in soccer fandoms worldwide, thanks to The MLS’ All-Star Game.
Striker eventually made his virtual debut at the MLS’ All-Star Game on August 10, 2022, celebrated as the league’s newest All-Star. On the virtual pitch, Striker was set to play the position of — you guessed it — striker.
NFL Rivals makes NFT GM simulators the meta
The NFL will kick off its involvement in the play-to-earn (P2E) gaming space with NFL Rivals, a general manager sim that enables users to parse through every single player from the NFL’s more than 100-year history — and draft them for consideration in the fantasy rosters of their dreams. That means not only would there be some truly stacked rosters for the ages, but perhaps even all-time meme rosters featuring Tim Tebow leading lineups featuring the likes of Rudy.
However, NFL Rivals won’t just be a conventional P2E game. Like its contemporaries in blockchain gaming, it’s more often described as a play-to-own experience. This will let users freely trade and exchange their highest-value players on the open market, either to improve the competitiveness of their roster or to earn a quick extra buck. Ahead of the game’s 2023 launch, the NFL has drummed up interest in NFTs among its fans with the NFL Rarity League collection — a series of virtual helmets designed after each individual NFL franchise. Stocks are gradually running out too, with each team sporting themed virtual helmets only possessing several hundred in stock each.