How leaders see the next frontier in sport

The NFL has handed out free NFTs of tickets as a souvenir for fans of its past four teams.Courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams

Every industry is trying to figure out how to position itself in the metaverse, and the sports world has a unique opportunity to drive innovation in this emerging space.

But first, what is the metaverse? Here is what little consensus there is: there is no single metaverse, but a collection of disparate 3D worlds, largely built on the blockchain, with the potential for connectivity. It’s a fan engagement tool, a revenue generator, an avenue for direct interaction.

“The way I define it is the convergence of augmented reality, virtual reality, gamification, digital community and the physical world – it’s a lot,” said Greg Kahn, CEO of Emerging Tech Exchange .

Christine Moy, a partner at Apollo Global Management who runs its digital assets division, called the metaverse a “hot topic” at the moment and described the evolution of the Internet this way: Web1 gave users the ability to read the information presented. Web2, which includes social media, offered the ability to read and write.

“Web3 is about reading, writing and owning – the ability to own part of the internet and be able to market your part,” said Moy, a former JP Morgan chief executive who led the metaverse strategy. from the bank, to State of the SportTechie. Industry.

This piece of ownership is why blockchain is essential. It creates an immutable ownership record and that is why non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a key gateway for education and accessibility – a portal to the metaverse. From Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot to MLB’s partnership with Fanatics-owned Candy Digital, the NFL’s work with Ticketmaster, the global football adoption of Sorare and Socios, and Tom Brady’s autograph give an indication of how leagues, teams, athletes and brands focus on the space. Everyone in sports, it seems, is hitting an NFT.

“It’s a big move,” Ivana Kirkbride, product marketing director for Meta for Entertainment, said of NFTs. “I also think it’s more about bridging Web2 and Web3. The non-fungible token is a way to involve different communities of interest in the operation of smart contracts, in cryptography, in other elements of the trading stack and Web3.

The other key beachhead for conceptualizing Web3 is gaming. , head of strategy and data analytics at Take-Two Interactive, who is also a deputy. both at Columbia and NYU.

“Look at new video games – Fortnite, Roblox – these are community games where you as an individual can play and participate however you want,” said retired NBA star Baron Davis. who has become an active technology investor and creator of metaverses. “And I think in this Web3 structure, it actually takes it a step further and says, ‘Let’s make a video game, where everyone is a builder in the video game. “”

The Atlanta Braves, for example, built a digital copy of Truist Park in the metaverse after witnessing the April 2020 Travis Scott concert phenomenon in the popular Fortnite video game. “It was an eye opener for us because you had this traditional in-person experience that was now happening in a virtual environment,” said Greg Mize, vice president of marketing and innovation for Braves. Digital Truist Park, which runs on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and was built by digital developer Surreal Events, will host events soon. The Braves consider it a separate place.

Hawk-Eye is working with Manchester City to return its Etihad Stadium in the same way. At the start of the 2022 playoffs, Google and the NBA launched Pixel Arena, a slightly different approach but with the same core virtual immersive experience.

Yet all parties involved understand the need for flexibility.

“The challenge right now is that we’re building this kind of blind, aren’t we?” said Rob Shaw, Director of North American Sports Partnerships for Meta. “Until people start using it regularly, we don’t know exactly what it should look like.”

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Answer key questions

Why is sports such a good metaverse case study?
Digital sites can sell tickets; there will be a large inventory of sponsorships; goods can be sold for avatars; etc

Do I need an avatar?
Most of the time. Experiences will vary, but users will be digitally rendered into many virtual worlds.
So how many metaverses are there and will I have to start over in each one?
Though disjointed now, everyone’s hope is that the worlds all connect, like a digital golden spike in the transcontinental railroad.

Do I need special equipment?
Not yet anyway. The mainstream view of the Metaverse includes VR glasses or at least AR glasses allowing users to engage and interact, but don’t expect anything universal.
Will it be expensive?
Not necessarily. The market is correcting itself and most NFTs are relatively affordable. The Financial Times reported that the NFT market was worth $40 billion. But about 80% of NFT value is limited to just 9% of the community. Many predict a democratization of these tokens to come.
Are NFTs just a new form of digital collectible?
No. The creators are trying to reposition NFTs as a membership – there may be a collectible component, but it will also unlock access to exclusive opportunities. That could mean parties and tailgates, or it could mean closed content subscriptions. Holding an NFT may also grant the owner one vote in a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO); crypto investors have already rallied to create a DAO that may one day own an NBA franchise.
How interactive will it be?
Greg Mize, vice president of marketing and innovation for the Atlanta Braves, says peer-to-peer interactions are “paramount in these experiences.” In some cases, these interactions will extend beyond the social to the commercial. Microsavings and microtransactions will become mainstream, just as they have in the gaming world.
How might this affect game broadcasts?
Leagues and rights holders are mostly in the preparation phase, but some elements are becoming clearer. Places like Digital Truist Park will allow remote fans to watch together. Early iterations include the Brooklyn Nets’ Netaverse and MLB’s FieldVision, both of which rely on multi-camera optical tracking systems to produce renders in which the producer can replay the action from any vantage point. .

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