The growing popularity and vigor of cryptocurrencies have piqued the interest of those in the sports industry looking to explore the potential applications of cryptocurrencies in sports. 47% of sports fans said that they know about cryptocurrencies, while 27% of fans said they already hold some, according to a Morning Consult poll. The poll indicates that sports fans are twice as likely to be familiar with cryptocurrencies than non-sports fans. The correlation even goes stronger as 66% of “avid” sports, and 72% of sports bettors knew about cryptocurrencies. This clearly indicates the potential of cryptocurrency in the sports industry. Several cryptocurrency businesses and companies are now sponsoring sports games and events in order to expand their market and attract tech-savvy fans. The high visibility of sports can raise awareness about the advancements in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies. With the onset of the pandemic and accompanied digitalization, the adoption of digital currencies in sports is becoming more popular. The new digital currency can be potentially used in various levels of sports like fantasy sports, player trading cards, paying athletes, and organization NFTs.
Fantasy sports is a kind of online visual simulation of traditional sports. In fantasy sports, players assemble their virtual sports teams and compete according to the performance of real players in the actual game. The popularity of fantasy sports especially increased in the pandemic when fans were stuck at home and could not watch their favorite games in person. Fantasy sports have allowed sports fans to digitalize the sporting experience. Several companies have already started employing cryptocurrencies in fantasy sports leagues. Fantasy sports players can build their teams using digital collectibles like Non-Fungible Tokens that they have purchased. For example, MLB Campaigns, an app created in 2018 by Major League Baseball Players Association in partnership with the blockchain provider Lucid Sight, allows fantasy players to build their team and win “caps” (the digital currency of the game). Fans can collect virtual players using these caps, and the real player’s performance in the actual game determines the rewards the fans would receive. According to the estimates, MLB Champaigns had over $1.1 billion worth of sales in over 270,000 transactions in its first year. Some players were sold for as high as $7500. The use of cryptocurrencies in fantasy sports decentralizes the gaming process and makes it more transparent.
Player trading cards
The trading industry of playing cards and collectibles is worth millions of dollars. Each trading card features a short video highlight of your favorite player. Recently, football player Luka Doncic’s trading card was sold for $4.3 million. Such player trading cards are becoming more popular as they give fans a frenzy of unique ownership of their favorite football player. This is done through blockchain, allowing fans to get a permanent ownership certificate that cannot be copied or deleted. In November 2020, FC Bayern Munich announced its partnership with Ethereum blockchain-based football fantasy game Sorare, allowing fans to buy, sell, and exchange limited edition football cards. The users can trade cards and build teams based on the performances of real players in football matches. Sorare has partnerships with over 180 football clubs with over 600,000 registered users. This year it sold $150 million of playing cards. On the other hand, football clubs like Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester City, and Paris St-Germain also partnered with Socios to sell crypto-based fan-tokens. These tokens allow greater fan engagement allowing fans to make certain small decisions for their favorite teams, get VIP access and several rewards.
As cryptocurrencies are gaining value and popularity, sports athletes are demanding to be paid in crypto. In June 2021, Canadian Elite Basketball announced that it would pay a part of its players’ salary in Bitcoin. The players were quite excited to receive their salaries in Bitcoin. Last year, former Seattle Seahawk offensive lineman Russell Okung demanded that he be paid half of his salary in Bitcoin. The Netherlands football team AZ Almaar posted an official notice in July 2021 that it will pay its players and staff in Bitcoin. With the value of Bitcoin skyrocketing this year, it is no surprise that football teams and leagues have started paying their players in Bitcoin to give their players additional benefits. Some sports leagues like the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA have started accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for game tickets and merchandise since 2019 to attract tech-savvy fans.
Non-fungible tokens – a unique digital asset that can be bought or sold like any other property have completely transformed the sports industry. Each NFT represents a unique digital item ranging from art pieces, virtual real estate, and collectible sports cards. NFTs have set up a market of limited edition images, videos, and artwork. NFTs allow fans to individually own sporting moments in pictures and videos. What adds value to such NFTs of sports collectibles is the exclusivity they offer. The fan buying these moments will know that they are the exclusive owner of that item. These NFTs can also be seen as an investment as people can resell them for a higher price. NFTs also allow athletes and gaming leagues a unique way of monetization. For example, NBA’s Top Shot allows users to buy NBA-licensed digital items. The service allows users to buy short video clips of match highlights of basketball players. The user gets a unique serial number in exchange for a highlight reel. The US Basketball Association is also selling the “top shots”- NFT-authenticated video highlight reels of leading football players. One such reel of LeBron was sold for a swooping $387000 in April 2021. This has increased the revenue of the sports industry, which was suffering during the pandemic. In only 14 years time, Bitcoin has become the fastest asset to reach a trillion-dollar market capitalization. This depicts that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are here to stay. In order to remain innovative for its fans, the sports industry is gradually embracing cryptocurrencies. At Unbanked, we believe that cryptocurrencies can greatly benefit sports and several other industries. To know more, visit our blog today.