The challenge Sport has with Web3 by Sandy Case




In my opinion sport is often too obsessed with collecting the cheque, the minimum guarantee and the here-and-now. It is all too short term.


Web3 offers us a blank canvas and that causes sport a problem. A problem in that no one (not even the smart ones) has figured out precisely what this canvas can truly offer sport. Therefore is sport just grabbing the sponsor dollar that's on offer rather than seeing how the applications can build longer term success?


Combine this:

· Lack of ability to nail down what the future looks like

· The obsessive need to hit short term targets

· Headlines (often negative) about extreme volatility within the crypto/nft space

· Headlines (definitely negative) in the mainstream press of Ponzi schemes, rip-off coins, account hacking and now FBI involvement


then our natural human protectionism is to take what’s on offer from Web3 rather than explore and build. After all, speaking last week to 2 recruitment firms who both indicate that the average tenure of a commercial director is less than 3 years, then no wonder no one wants to build. There’s no time. It’s all about now. They can’t afford the risk. So, for me, sport has the wrong relationship with Web3 companies. Inside this pot I include companies operating as crypto exchanges, NFT platforms, blockchain developers, fan tokens etc and sport is treating them as a sponsorship opportunity rather than a long term revenue creator. Of course I’d love to be proved wrong so let’s see if the latest Premier League NFT deal, that is rumoured to be worth £50-£100m per year contains something more than just a badging exercise and contains something a little more long term and exciting for the fans.



 

So - back to this blank canvas…… what could be possible?

This part can’t be answered by me today. As you know I’m raising questions rather than answering them.

I read that humans have been around for approx. 30,000 years.

The internet has only been around for 30 years. This is the beginning of systemic change.

 

Of those 30 years

o The first 10 were dodgy dial up

o The next 10 we couldn’t stream anything and

o The last 10 have been dominated by 4 companies.

 

What’s my point here? Web3 and the tech behind it is so recent we can’t know for sure. And you/I don’t need to know what the tech is – after all does anyone know why an iPhone 13 is better than the iPhone 3? We just know the user experience is better and that’s all that matters. We are so obviously at the beginning of the journey.

As Jay Stuart recently wrote in his excellent piece:


It’s about re-tooling the back end of the internet and building a new underlying structure of blockchain and tokenisation. Most internet users probably won’t even be aware of what’s happening, any more than they are of what happens behind Web2 today”



 

I think there is also a language challenge.


There is talk of tokenisation as though it’s a fancy clever term. In a way fans are already partially 'tokenised' today in that they are treated as data points, which are bits of value. But the data belongs to those big platforms, who don't really care about creating any value for the sports. In the blockchain future the data is supposedly going to belong to the rights holder, and they can create much richer and more long-term connections and experiences for fully 'tokenised' fans.

Additionally, there is too much focus on NFTs. This is just a tiny aspect of what is possible. An NFT can be far more than a digital picture. If that’s all a rights holder is creating, then they are probably trying to cash in and are missing the point. NFTs can, and should have a use (utility), that can give you access to experiences and bring a fan closer to their club. They should be multi-dimensional and created (minted) with the long term in mind. They can start small and grow into exciting unique experiences.

Digital ownership has huge logic when many people spend 59hrs a week online (acc to research in The Independent Apr 21) and before the more traditional of us ridicule this concept – we’ve mostly all stopped buying music in the form of LP/CDs and have happily owned/rented them digitally through the likes of Spotify. I fully understand why someone wants to spend $100 on a cool pair of trainers for their avatar in a game in the same way they would in real life. After all this is where they spend their time. Makes sense to me.

So back again to this wretched blank canvas: Of course, many ideas won’t work, many will. So how should a Commercial Director, CMO, CEO, CTO decide which ones to grasp and get behind? This is where we/they all need to invest some time to learn and do some due diligence. It doesn’t have to be confusing and the x2 worlds of Web3 and sport will collide. You don’t need to understand the tech behind it. Does anyone understand how the internet or emails work? No need to. We just need to understand the applications on offer. Of course, that’s why I am unashamedly going to plug the www.web3summit.sport as I’m hugely curious to learn more and we want to create a space where rights holders and Web3 experts can educate each other in the opportunities. Demystify some of the language and explain the opportunity.

I’m pretty sure that the ultimate difference between Web3 vs Web2 will be an attitude of collaboration vs a few huge businesses who own/protect everything which will result in a redistribution of how we create, own and distribute content. That is where sport can take advantage of the opportunities. And it will create long term wealth for those that get it right.