Athletes are one of the most obvious groups who would benefit from strategic use of digital collectibles in building their fan bases and keeping them engaged.
They may like to begin with the kinds of digital collectibles that already have had demonstrable success in the sports world. These include “special moments” such as best plays, most spectacular goals and so on. The NBA Top Shot series is the best example, with both aggregate sales volume and the number of individual participants at very high levels. Sales exceeded a billion dollars in 2021. We can assume that these will have a high chance of success since these types of memorabilia (like player cards) are already popular with fans worldwide. They, however, are just the beginning of what this technology makes possible.
Super fan club
What really excites the “super fans” – the people who enthusiastically follow the game and know the history of their favourite players inside out? Once we know this, we can design new ways of satisfying their desires, powered by NFT technology and other tech as appropriate. Membership in an athlete’s NFT club would entitle a selected group of fans to a set of special benefits. Members would wear their Club badge with pride, while being offered access to personal appearances, sporting advice, educational materials, and so on.
High-profile events naturally lend themselves to publishing of sets of digital collectibles. Community building that takes place around each event may be powered by NFT releases designed so as to maximise long-term engagement. (“Engagement cliff” is a standard feature of events and extending it by even a small percentage carries important positive long-term value.)
Digital collectibles may be used in very creative ways to exploit fundraising opportunities for individual athletes and their specific challenges. A free diver may use digital collectibles to gather a club of “super supporters” around him or her, and use the proceeds to fund their next adventure. In exchange, the members of that club get access to the resulting film ahead of everyone else, are able to interact with the film in new ways, and are offered other benefits. At the club and association level, organisations may build up NFT-powered programmes to, for instance, fund young player development programmes.
Education and charitable giving
As a high-profile individuals, many athletes already provide inspiration and educational opportunities to people worldwide. Building an NFT layer across all those disparate activities may serve to provide a unified “certification programme” and, more importantly, offer – for example – gamification opportunities as incentives within the different disciplines. The athlete’s global tribe can also be engaged in NFT-powered aid projects in remote or disadvantaged communities.
Individual disciplines and profitable measurements
It may be appropriate to build individual programmes for particular disciplines or offer cross-discipline collections. These, too, should be both measurable and profitable projects, and they may be devised for esports and gaming as well as real-life adventuring.
Digital collectibles are an interesting way to measurably test assumptions about the characteristics of various fan cohorts – and the activity is not only efficient but also profitable. For instance, we may assume that there is some “fan bleed” between the various disciplines – there is some overlap between followers of free climbing and fans of paragliding, for example. We could test that by offering NFT packages pertaining to one sport to more fan bodies than just those associated with that sport, and let’s measure what happens. The project would be entirely self-funding (probably profitable) while offering insights which would be hard to come by otherwise.