Over the past three months, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have become a major topic of discussion in the world of sports. Led by NBA Top Shot, this rapidly evolving marketplace has caused a ripple in the industry and has presented an opportunity for Catapult partners. While there is an urge to jump right in, the NCAA market will be much more complex than NBA Top Shot. The major differences include: collegiate athletes do not have a players association which will require individual clearances, copyright and trademark clearances are often separate, and currently, only former student athletes can participate in NTFs. NFTs do represent a tremendous opportunity for all of the schools, bowls, and conferences that have worked over the years to protect copyright and maintain a digital asset library.
We have seen within NBA Top Shot and with some professional athletes, not all NFT releases hit. If NFT drops lack a strategic approach to creative and marketing, they can easily fall flat. Catapult is working closely with our partners to develop NFT strategies and premium assets which fully meet the NCAA marketplace requirements.
When it comes to NFT experts, Wally Crittenden, of Stephen F. Austin University, is very unique. Mr. Crittenden serves as an Assistant AD for SFA Athletics. In addition, he has been working with blockchain technology since 2018. On March 14th, Mr. Crittenden dropped the first collegiate NFT to celebrate the Stephen F. Austin LadyJacks’ first NCAA Tournament appearance.
A: NFTs are one part of a tokenized ecosystem approach. This technology integration has been around several years and platforms are entering the marketplace to improve access for fans to participate. However, this technology is only as valuable as the community it serves and the process needed for fan interaction. NFTs are here to stay, though utility and use cases will continue to emerge beyond what currently exists. Those companies with a fan-centric approach will be the ones that are sustainable.
A: That was a special moment that had been in the conceptual phase for a week or so. As indicators continued to point towards mainstream acknowledgement of NFTs just over the horizon and our women's basketball team continued their special season, it presented itself for serious conversation and compliance approval after we won the semi-finals. From there, the asset was created and it was about crossing our fingers for the final game result to warrant minting the moment. As soon as the game was over, I found a corner in the arena and compiled, deployed and verified the contract and minted the token. It was a very special day for a lot of reasons and I am so happy that we are still talking about an amazing season our women's basketball team had weeks after it ended.
A: NBA Top Shot has done a great job serving as a model for what can be done in this space. They have certainly captured the NBA brand and I would expect them to continue to iterate on their platform like all great companies do. The concern is user flow to participate and cost to participate. Like most crypto platforms out there, it is built for the most passionate and tech savvy users. For this to be sustained at the collegiate level, user onboarding has to be simple, automatic and it needs to be free. So much of that has to do with the blockchain you choose to build. With more solutions coming to market every day, I do believe the best fit for the industry is still ahead of us.
A: A curated marketplace may not scale in numbers as quickly as an open marketplace. However, the value of the experience and what is being interacted with is insulated. This is important as it is not enough for universities to have a page listing their moments in an open marketplace. I also do not think the goal of a brand management tool should be to be known as the Amazon of NFTs. Frankly, NFTs are only a part of a greater opportunity for engagement that benefit sponsors, fans and properties. Relationships intersect at really unique points and we need to value those opportunities to help define our fan experience. Uploading clips alone will not improve your brand longevity. An approach that incorporates fan engagement best-practices that many schools already use, but also incorporates a holistic approach to tokenization has the potential to be something that will keep the conversation going between games and between seasons.
A: On the right blockchain, NFTs can be created and shared for less than what some schools may already spend on promotional items. Some use cases of note that Modern Sports Group, creator of The MSG Fan App and The Fan Block, have moving out of conceptual mapping and into live beta are:
Free NFTs to fans in attendance at special moments within a game via remote check-in and airdrop supported by our MSG Fan App.
There are so many other use cases that all improve the fan experience and that can generate revenue for departments of all sizes.