What will metaverse innovation mean for the business of sport?


Steve Mason, Commercial VP GM at Embelex


The metaverse has created a new way of thinking about sports fandom, transforming how

teams and brands interact with fans. Supporting your favourite team today means more than

picking a side and attending live games. Thanks to new concepts like non fungible tokens

(NFTs) and digital fashion, people can show their admiration for and interact with the teams

they love beyond the stadium at almost any time. The metaverse is a realm of its own, where

everything that excites sports fans in the real world can be amplified and shared online.

The sports fan metaverse journey began with online gaming providing virtual interactive

spaces. It is now growing to become something multifaceted as businesses realise the

potential of the online domain. We are seeing new, creative ideas like digitally-wearable

garments for avatars and online collectibles introduced by the top sports industry names

such as Fifa 1 - and there is likely more to come as investment into the metaverse grows.

Findings from a recent report 2 by McKinsey & Company revealed, in the first five months of 2022 alone, $120billion has been invested in the metaverse from venture capital, private equity and corporations.


There is an opportunity for all sports brands to join in on the metaverse buzz - we are

already starting to see interest materialise. Let’s look at where the sporting metaverse is

now, and where it could land in years to come.


The link between sports and the metaverse

The sports industry has already adopted a digital strategy in some respects, as fans can

immerse themselves in the action of competitions without leaving the comfort of their homes by streaming events from home or playing e-sports. Sports brands are now taking these online interactions a step further by exploring the metaverse and potential new revenue streams.


For instance, sports brands are incentivising engagement through ventures like blockchain

e-sports programmed with tokenized digital assets. Sports fans can now join crypto fantasy

football leagues where they can buy and trade NFTs in the form of players, battling it out in

tournaments for real monetary prizes. Digital fashion is another emerging trend we are

seeing sports teams 3 jump on, by partnering with online platforms. These collaborations

mean fans can purchase digitally-wearable garments for their digital avatars in the

metaverse and reproduce the loyalty shared on the pitch online.


Garments have proven to be a versatile conduit for sports brands to engage with fans using

digital technology. Our Embelex 4 team is also beginning to traverse the metaverse space by creating scannable embellishments that can link customers to exclusive online content via smartphones. We have trialled the technology in the sporting world by giving Premier League football fans access to exclusive online experiences and prizes such as a 2021 competition 5 that gave away a Premier League Hall of Fame shirt. Our team have also recently partnered with the San Francisco 49ers, extending the reach of this technology

to U.S. team sports.


Creating an online identity

The metaverse is a reflection of the real world in many ways, where people can create a

version of themselves and present it to an online community - creating a market for fashion

and sportswear brands. People can purchase digital assets and sport their favourite brands,

or even purchase sports team kits to show their die-hard loyalty. It’s also a perfect space for

like-minded sports fans to meet and discuss hot topics.


Thanks to the malleable nature of the metaverse, digital garments can also act as

opportunities for businesses to experiment with designs, market products and ultimately

increase brand awareness. Sports teams can establish an online presence through digital

clothing, advertisements and virtual events that provide both fun interactive experiences for

fans and exposure for teams and sportswear brands. Almost anything goes in the metaverse

meaning the opportunities are practically endless.


An exciting future for team sports

Advanced technologies allow brands to interact with consumers through new channels,

holding true to classic marketing techniques while exploring innovative methods to excite

and attract new customers. In years to come, we may see traditional point-collecting

schemes turn into gamified experiences - or NFTs offered as reward scheme prizes, among

other imaginative use cases. As the metaverse continues to take shape, I think we will see

more sports teams and brands start to engage with it and capitalise on the quickly growing

interest.


There is no way of telling what the future of the metaverse will look like, but there is

undoubtedly a distinct opportunity for sports teams to engage with fans and interact with

them like never before. As technology continues to evolve and Gen-Z inherits the world

around us, the edges between the real and virtual worlds could become increasingly faded.

To keep up with the competition throughout this transition, sports teams will need to remain

tech-savvy and ensure they understand the potential applications of the metaverse, and

what it could mean for their beloved fans.



1 https://www.fifa.com/about-fifa/commercial/media-releases/fifa-to-launch-fifa-collect

2 https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/marketing%20and%20sales/our%20insights/value%20creation%20in%20the%20metaverse/Value-creation-in-the-metaverse.pdf

3 https://insidersport.com/2022/08/02/everton-creates-digital-avatar-shirts-with-fancurve/

4 https://embelex.averydennison.com/p/1

5 https://www.premierleague.com/news/1264965