[NFT.NYC] Teams, athletes and partners can help sports fans know better about NFTs’ role


A partnership among sports teams, athletes, NFT developers and other key players will help educate sports fans about the role of the newly emerged tool in sports, a panel of speakers said during a forum at NFT.NYC 2022. 

Speaking at the forum entitled “the future of fandom with NFTs,” Scott Lawin, chief executive of Candy Digital, an official NFT partner of MLB, car racing and Netflix, said NFTs helped reduce the daunting costs that fans needed to pay to connect to sports and the teams and athletes they love. 

“NFT can provide them not just economic values but also what connects them to the sports and the teams and athletes they love,” he said. “What we found is, whether they are baseball or racing fans, the passion and the things that they collect in the real world are part of their identity, part of what connects them to the community.”

In the past two years, many teams and leagues had rushed into the NFT space with a bit of a “gold rush mentality,” Lawin said. It attracted large amounts of investment and generated large revenues last year. But some teams and leagues focused exclusively on this aspect, without thinking about what NFT relates to fan engagement and what the blockchain-based token actually means, he said. 

“So that education component has to be a shared endeavour between the partner, the teams and ultimately the league itself,” he said.

In regard to fans, their range could vary drastically, from hardcore fans who won’t miss a single game play, to occasional viewers or people who virtually know nothing about the sport, said Jorge Urrutia del Pozo, vice president of Dapper Labs, the company behind popular blockchain games such as CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot.

He said one important message to convey was that the NFTs that fans would buy were different from technological products or a set of codes. 

“People are not buying the blockchain or a set of ones and zeros. What they are buying is something they are passionate about. It may have emotional and functional benefits. And that’s what we should market because that is what people care about,” he said. “And so we try to appeal to those emotional and functional benefits when educating consumers.”

NASCAR racer Julia Landauer noted that one key driver to the adoption of NFT in sports over the last 18 months had been through branded content and IPs. She said the responsibility of educating about NFTs lay largely within teams and athletes because they were where the fan’s trust came from. 

A recent bear market might post obstacles to a continual growth of NFTs, but in the next five years or so, NFTs would be able to yield support to more car racers, particularly underdogs and athletes with less support, Landauer said.

Landauer is set to become the first NASCAR Xfinity Series racer to be sponsored by NFT communities next month.

Kiernan Fitzsimons, of cryptocurrency exchange FTX US, said it was clear NFT would continue to be one of the best tools for people who may not be trading-oriented or interested in financial markets. 

He said FTX was planning to build their sports and athletes-related products further over the next few years. The platform had a set of APIs that could help them reach out to their fan base. 

“We can do this in a way that involves way less friction and it is the native area of this user base for all of these different fans subsets,” Fitzsimons said.