Author: Sebastian Scheplitz
Since the introduction of the abbreviation NFT into the global lexicon, these unique digital assets have permeated multiple industries and are the hot topic across pretty much every media outlet you can shake a stick at.
From real estate to online casinos, the luxury goods market, the art world, the music industry, and now the sporting world and sportsbook operators. Everywhere you look – whether you like it or not – NFTs are omnipresent.
While NFTs can’t be used as currency, they’re often employed as incentives to sign up to sportsbook operators. Most definitely, the role of NFTs in the online gambling and sports betting industry is changing the future of sports betting commerce as we know it.
But are they really gonna take over the sports industry as predicted? Let’s see:
Sports NFTs – Facts and Figures
- $128 million – largest soccer platform NFT (Sorare) revenue in the first nine months of 2021 (1)
- 23% of millennials likely to invest in Esports NFTs (2)
- 35% of Esports fans ‘somewhat’ interested in purchasing NFTs (2)
- $2 billion – prediction of sport NFT transactions in 2022 (1)
- 7% – sports market share of NFT distribution (2)
- 4 – 5 million sports fans are predicted to have purchased or been gifted by the end of 2022 (1)
- $500 million sales generated across 800,000 users on the NBA Top Shots program (3)
The sports industry has embraced the NFT culture and it’s the biggest advancement in sporting collectibles since the introduction of sports trading cards in 1886.
Referred to as the sporting NFT gold rush, NFTs are booming within the industry and are a novel way for sports personalities to generate revenue, fans to engage with their favorite leagues, and operators looking to incentivize and attract new audiences.
Virtual NFT merchandise, NFT tickets to top sporting events, and NFT MP4s of epic sporting moments are all in the NFT sporting mix. Now, let’s take a look at some of the movers and shakers in the NFT sports industry.
Sharing the first two letters of the NFT abbreviation isn’t the only common ground these two institutions share. NFT releases, also known as “drops,” are scheduled on the DraftKings marketplace. Users simply check in on to the site and place themselves in a virtual queue to purchase NFTs.
The initial NFT focussed on NFL quarterback megastar Tom Brady (now the owner of his very own blockchain – Autograph), but there are other sporting superstars with their own line of NFTs on the DraftKings marketplace. These include Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Derek Jeter, Tony Hawk, and Naomi Osaka.
Going back to the NFT tractor beam that is Tom Brady, his NFTs are available for a wide range of budgets. If you’re in the market for a unique piece of sporting history, you can grab an unautographed NFT for as little as between $12 and $100, and starting from $250 up to $1500 for an NFT signed by the man himself.
Betano x Atlético Mineiro
Betano, as one of the world’s leading sportsbook operators and a cutting-edge tech company, has revealed an NFT collection collaborating with Brazilian soccer team Atlético Mineiro. Holders of these particular NFTs will be offered a “unique experience”.
The collection boasts a total of just over 50 Sports NFT, divided into varying tiers, each with its own price bracket. They look like this:
- Silver edition NFTs – costing $200 a pop, these are selling like hotcakes due to the affordability and potential ROI. Each NFT includes unique media with an Atlético focus. Silver-tier NFT owners will also gain access to exclusive merch and further unique rewards.
- Golden Edition – comprising four NFTs being auctioned over a week. These NFTs have a price tag of $5000 each. Successful buyers from the auction will receive flights to Brazil and a chance to rub shoulders with the players themselves.
- Betano Effect – a single NFT and the lucky holder of this top-tier asset will enjoy a full day at the Atlético training facilities, training with the players, and also enjoy a full year’s Atlético membership and a whole bunch of Atlético merch. As they say, the best things in life are free – as is this NFT – you just need to fulfill a set of Betano challenges.
Top Shots, the NBA marketplace for NFTs, broke a record for its highest selling NFT in February 2021. Jesse Schwarz, a playboy millionaire and self-confessed LeBron James superfan, coughed up $208,000 for the now-infamous NFT of a monumental LeBron James dunk where he bounds over Sacramento King’s Nemanja Bjelica to make the dunk of dunks.
Widely tipped to be the marketplace that thrusts NFTs into the mainstream, the Top Shots marketplace has over 800,000 registered users and has clocked up over $500 million in NFT sales to date.
The greatest appeal of Top Shots is that it’s an entry-level NFT one-stop-shop for newbies to the NFT game. An obvious comparison to NBA NFTs is the physical (and admittedly much cheaper) trading cards.
Similar to trading cards, you can buy NBA NFT digital sports trading cards from Top Shots, but in video format. The asset also comes with stats regarding the game in question and sale price history.
Dapper Labs, the company that runs Top Shots, has initiated a new round of funding to the tune of $305 million. Further investors include NBA household names such as Klay Thompson, JaVale McGee, and Kevin Durant.
Partnering with NFT collectible pioneers Candy digital, the MLB released their first NFT featuring New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig on the 4th of July, 2021. The Lou Gehrig NFT is a video clip of the baseman’s enigmatic “Luckiest Man” speech delivered on Independence Day, 1939.
Purchased for $70,440 by Forbes billionaire Tyler Winklevoss and the proceeds of the sale going towards amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) charities – here’s proof that NFTs are not only an innovative digital phenomenon but also a force for good.
The MLB already has its foot in the NFT door with NFT sports cards, working in conjunction with trading card behemoths, Topps.
Following on from the successes of other sporting organizations, it’s a natural progression that the esports industry would follow soon follow suit. Inherently tech-based and cyber-clued up, esports fans are a prime audience for the NFT gaming revolution.
While lagging behind other sports leagues at the forefront of NFT development, esports experts conjecture that the combination of esports and NFTs are going to hit big.
Esports rights holders, including organizations, publishers, and management teams are currently exploring countless avenues for the application of NFTs within the esports landscape.
Potential esports NFTs could include highlights from a League of Legends match and, once minted, could be sold to esports enthusiasts. Esports teams 100 Thieves and Simplicity Esports have already begun to off “gamer” cards, seen as a precursor to NFTs proper.
Sport and Tokenization
The NFT story doesn’t end there. With clubs such as Brentford FC, AC Milan, and FC Barcelona cashing in on the NFT movement, we’re clearly at the start of every sporting team on the planet – forming their own NFT divisions.
Jason Fielding, a commercial consultant focussing on sport and entertainment gives his two cents:
“We’re starting this journey with Fan Tokenization, which is only just starting, so we should follow that and see how it plays out. My instinct is that in the long term, tokenization will be an important part of any community to enhance the relationship with fans.”
Tickets – both digital and physical – to historic games are viewed as a potentially money-spinning NFT option. If a Leicester City fan was to be in possession of a digital ticket to the Premier League final in 2016, this could be immortalized as an NFT and the value could exponentially increase to eye-watering sums.
While doubters will view the role of NFTs in the online sports betting industry as a mere cash cow for the already bursting-at-the-seams coffers of sporting organizations, it’s a cynical yet understandable opinion.
NFT sports betting still needs to go through a sale, converted into a cryptocurrency, and only then will it be viable as a payment method for online casinos and sportsbooks. This opens a digital can of worms for regulators in regards to money laundering and counter-terrorism due diligence. In short, it’s a financial minefield for the tightly regulated online gambling industry.
While sportsbook operators are scratching their chins and pondering how to offer bets with NFT, the transference of funds from NFT holders to operators is far from developed and still has a long way to go.
At present, NFTs are offered as sign-up incentives and prizes for sportsbook campaigns, but the realization of NFTs as standalone payment options are a long way off for NFT iGaming operators.
Until fiat-accepting sportsbooks become more welcoming to crypto options, the status quo will no doubt remain intact. The ball, as they say, is most definitely in their court.
How did you like Sebastian Scheplitz’s blog post “Dominance of NFTs in the Sports Betting World”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂