Financial windfall, enlarged community of fans, attraction of sponsors … NFT, a new Eldorado in the world of sport?

They are not the first, but they are far from being the last. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) will launch its first NFT presale collection for its licensees on Tuesday 17 May, ahead of a public sale on Thursday. NFT, an acronym for the English “non-fungible token”, which in French means “non-fungible token”, is the new business that is panicking the sports community.

Clearly, NFTs are digital objects that it can take many forms such as an image, a map or a video. Each modified NFT is unique. To ensure their authenticity, these NFTs have tamper-proof title deeds, based on blockchain technology (the one that identifies cryptocurrency exchange transactions). Most of the time, NFTs are sold on dedicated platforms and the purchase is done in bitcoin or ether, two of the competing cryptocurrencies. As with valued works of art, NFTs can be resold and appreciated in terms of value.

NFTs have established themselves as real investments, far beyond sport. the Leading NFT transaction site, OpenSea, went from a few tens of millions of dollars in NFT sales in early 2021 to more than $ 10 billion in November of that year, a record.

“In addition to finance and the ‘tech’ sector, luxury and sport are the sectors that invest the most in NFTs”.

Julien Pillot, economist, lecturer at Inseec and specialist in technology markets

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Why ? “Simply because they have the most obvious areas of application”, retorts Julien Pillot, economist, teacher at Inseec and specialist in technology markets. Like any investment, NFTs are not without risk and are dependent on speculation. In fact, when you buy an NFT, no one can tell how its value will evolve. Likewise, cryptocurrencies, which allow for trading, depend on a volatile price.

This argument, however, hasn’t deterred the sports community. From 2018-2019 more and more players from the world of sports, clubs, sports federations or athletes, are investing in these digital assets. For the time being, only highly publicized sports have tried their luck such as football, rugby, basketball, tennis or even cycling.

In 2021, the NBA launched its collection of NFTs in the form of video excerpts of seconds that show the game action that has marked the history of the American league. French start-up Sorare has had great success with its collectible NFT cards of around 6,000 footballers, also known as virtualized Panini cards. This company was valued at nearly € 4 billion in the fall of 2021.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) will launch its collection of 5,000 NFTs representing the seats on the Philippe-Chatrier court on Tuesday 17 May.  (French Tennis Federation)

The FFT will launch its collection of 5,000 NFTs on Tuesday 17th May. Each of them will represent a numbered seat in Philippe-Chatrier’s court, with a unique design for each. Specificity of this project: the purchase of NFTs will be made, not in cryptocurrencies, but in euros by credit card on a dedicated Roland-Garros site. “We are deliberately cautious on this project, we do not want to rush things and take risks in mechanics that we do not yet know well”, specifies Amélie Oudéa-Castera, director general of the FFT.

Unlike derivative products that are sold only once per brand, NFTs can be resold indefinitely. And the point is, with every resale of NFT, the creator can receive a percentage. “An NFT is a computer program, which is worth a contract. The creator of the NFT can issue the rule that at each resale, the club and / or the player whose image was used, recovers a percentage of the amount engaged” , explains economist Julien Pillot.

“Each project has its own strategic goals. NFT and blockchain are just one technology. Depending on who you are and what your goals are, you will use them in different ways.”

Julien Pillot, economist and lecturer at Inseec and specialist in technology markets

to franceinfo: sport

In fact, qWhen the NBA broadcasts the best moments in league history in the form of NFT, its goal is both to find an additional channel of communication for the NBA to talk, but also to find sufficient and substantial additional income.

If the NFTs are a a means of creating new sources of income for clubs and associations, but they have other advantages. “NFTs also allow you to build fan engagement around brands, particularly with those who are distant, who they are not used to going to the stadium and they consume sports differentlyand this is a real challenge today for clubs and competition brands “, develops Magali Tézenas du Montcel, specialist in sports economics and general delegate of Sporsora (organization of reference for thinking and influencing the development of sports economics).

For this reason, the purchase of NFT provides, in most cases, exclusive advantages for the owner. A way to create a digital link with the fans, and to integrate them, more or less, into the life of the club or a competition. This is the challenge of the NFT project launched on May 25 (in presale, on sale to the public on 26) by the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club, a football team that plays in National 1.

“Our goal is to create a crypto-community, testifies Marc Dubois, the club president. We favor digital approaches because we are in a territory with a limited population, and this operation is clearly part of an approach to enhance and promote the club, for its development. The purchase of one of the 11,011 unique 0.05 ether (i.e. € 133.99) NFT cards featuring the image of the club’s mascot, the Ardennes boar, will allow shoppers to benefit from gifts, enter contests or participate in physical and virtual club events.

The NFT collection launched by the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club consists of 11,011 cards with the image of the Ardennes boar, the club's mascot.  Each card is unique, with different details on each card like accessories, backgrounds, coat color etc.  (Sedan Ardenne Sports Club)

The goal is the same for the French Tennis Federation. Buyers of a digital seat on Central will have access to a club where a series of exclusive benefits will be reserved: chance to win match points played on Central in the 2022 edition, VIP tickets to Roland-Garros and the Rolex Paris Masters, visits personalized to the site or meetings with the players of the circuit.

Stade Français, the first club in the Top 14 to join the NFT last March, has chosen another option. After offering to buy the cards with the image of the club and its players, the club wants to go further. “Our NFTs will be supported by a fantasy game (game in which participants assume the role of owners of sports teams and challenge other players based on the results of real players and teams, ed.) for next season, a first in the oval, announces Georges-Henry Bediou, the club’s director of development and communications. The cards will have a double function: a collecting role, which is the traditional role of NFTs, and they could also play a role in the game. “

A double function that will therefore bring additional value to these NFTs depending on performance. “We can cover this up with a lot of little marketing talk, like creating a new community or attracting new audiences, but the reason for these various projects is mostly financial,” argues economist Julien Pillot.

These new communities affect both large and small clubs, and for good reason, since an extended community is an important asset to sponsors. “If your fan base is larger, you will monetize it with partners and this will indirectly generate revenue for the clubs.” translates Magali Tézenas du Montcel, specialist in sports economics.

Furthermore, the NFT approach is part of a broader logic, that of diversifying the sports economy. “The it is necessary to rethink the economic model of football clubs, be they professional or amateur. All the clubs are in trouble. notes the president of the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club, Marc Dubois.

“At Sedan, if we hadn’t started an innovation process, the club would have a hard time surviving.”

Marc Dubois, President of the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club

at franceinfo sport

If the covid pandemic and its financial repercussions could trigger certain dynamics, “However, nothing demonstrates a cause and effect relationship to this enthusiasm for NFTs”, argues economist Julien Pillot. “La determining factor of our project is this increasingly sparkling innovation in the world of NFTs. We didn’t want to be excluded “. recognizes Amélie Oudéa-Castera. The next step, the metaverse, in other words the virtual world, which sportsmen are beginning to appropriate? “This really is the next thought. Metaverse is part of our roadmap.” The world of sport has therefore not finished reinventing itself.

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