Ben is responsible for the delivery of creative and innovative digital campaigns at Wasserman. With a constant eye on the most innovative and effective technology to bring campaigns to life and have them deliver results he has produced some award winning work within the Web3 space and spoken at a number of industry events including the recent iSportConnect Web3 Summit.
When did you first become aware of the concept of Web3?
I first encountered the world of Web3 a good few years before the term Web3 had been coined (pardon the pun!). In 2013, back in my earlier days when I used to work in events, I worked on a large financial conference where they were talking about this new thing called “cryptocurrency” and this thing called a Bitcoin that had been growing in popularity over the previous few years. If only I’d trusted the experts in the room at the time and invested in some back then – I wouldn’t be sat here now if I had! I became aware of the concept of digital ownership in an NFT and Metaverse sense early in lockdown when I had a bit more time on my hands and dabbled around in a few platforms.
When did you first get a wallet?
I was a little late to the game when it came to actually having a crypto wallet. Having only previously dabbled in trading crypto on existing online platforms, it wasn’t until about mid 2021 when I properly started interrogating the world of NFTs and realised the potential of Web3 as a fan engagement and business driver that I opened up my MetaMask wallet and decided to dive in head first.
What was the first Web3 related thing that you purchased?
The first Web3 related item that I purchased was a plot of virtual land on a platform called Earth2, which was doing the rounds on social media at the time. It’s set to be a futuristic 1:1 virtual twin of the real earth back in 2020. It’s probably not going to be the most lucrative of investments, but that’s obviously not the purpose of Web3 anyway!
What do you see as the most important benefit of Web3?
From my perspective Web3, or Web3 adjacent projects allow brands and rightsholders to reach audiences in an entirely new way, in regions and territories that they may never have been able to previously. Whilst digital marketing has existed since the early ages of the World Wide Web, and has driven global engagement in some capacity, Web3 experiences and initiatives have the potential to connect fans in a much more tangible and immersive way than any social post, traditional website, newsletter or minigame has ever been able to do.
Our proudest example is with the Wimbledon Virtual Hill which we have been producing with the AELTC since the 2021 Championships. It connected fans from over 120 different countries together, providing access to a virtual overlay of the tournament, creating a slice of the experience of actually being there. When you look at the additional layers you can add on top - digital ownership, enhanced social interaction, higher graphical fidelity, etc, the potential for fan engagement is huge. We’re only scratching the surface!
Who in the Web3 space is doing work that you admire?
The Australian Open’s Art Ball NFT program back in January 2022 was way ahead of its time. They absolutely nailed the story and purpose of what they were trying to achieve, creating an NFT product that was not only desirable and exclusive, but also had a tangible utility that changed during the tournament using real time data, had physical utility, and created an entirely new reason for fans to engage in the tournament.
What will be the main drivers in Web3? Sports? Entertainment? Gaming?
Short answer – I think Sports and Gaming will be the biggest driver.
Long answer – it’s hard to say! The concept of Web3 is built from many different components, each with countless levers that can be pulled to achieve different opportunities for different requirements. We’re obviously seeing the sports world getting heavily involved in the NFT space, with all major rightsholders, clubs and leagues trying to carve out their piece of the pie – some more successfully than others. Gaming is obviously heavily focused in the “metaverse” space, with platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite taking centre stage and providing a low barrier to entry for brands to get involved - whilst they’re not what some people may class as “truly” metaverse, they are certainly leading the charge in providing access to the many.
Entertainment for me is going to be the trickiest challenge to solve. I believe there are actually two challenges to solve. We are a long way off a truly mass attendance “event” in the Web3 space. We’ve seen plenty of “live” concerts within the metaverse, each claiming to have hundreds of thousands to millions of attendees, but realistically these “events'' are built up of smaller capacity “rooms” providing a simultaneous experience for the many.
The second challenge is how we are going to be consuming entertainment in the metaverse, which should be accessible from anywhere, without borders? How are rightsholders and broadcasters navigating this space when we’re used to a regionalised broadcast rights model, with different broadcasters having different rights in specific regions? An answer I don’t know, but one I’m keen to understand and delve into deeper!
What Web3 use case has surprised you the most?
Slightly cliched I’m sure, but the success of the NBA’s Top Shots has to be applauded. Not solely for its huge success, but also to have the tenacity to push forward with such an initiative when two of the other leading sports franchises in the USA had previously not had great success. It launched in a perfect storm of crypto booms and widespread awareness of this new thing called an NFT as well as with the support of Dapper Labs who were already well on their way to making a name for themselves within the space. Whilst the MLB and NFLPA’s offerings at the time were engaging and forward thinking, the NBA succeeded where their counterparts couldn’t and has now become the most successful sporting NFT initiative out there. It is worth saying that both the NFL and MLB have now returned with their own new NFT initiatives and I’m sure they will now be able to ride the wave and have similar success to their Basketball peers.
What is going to be the next big thing pushing Web3 forward?
I think there are two big things that will be driving Web3 forward. For me, nailing utility in NFTs is by far the biggest challenge facing brands and rightsholders in succeeding in that space. Whilst owning a memory of a historic match win, or an image of your favourite player is nice to have, how you can connect that to something tangible in the real world is the clincher in making it not only successful for rightsholders, but also appetising for fans and consumers.
Second part for me is “synchronicity”, or the ability to connect vast numbers of people together in a metaverse/virtual space. In order to be truly interactive and social, the metaverse will need to allow for a far greater number of people interacting in the same space at the same time. Nail these two things and we’ll be well on our way to seeing great success in the Web3 space.
Is the metaverse part of your Web3 vision?
Absolutely. For me, it’s the place I see us (Wasserman) being able to deliver the strongest product for our clients in the digital space. We’ve seen great success with a number of metaverse adjacent projects over the last 18 months with our clients, and we’ve got some other incredible projects in the pipeline. Whilst we may be a long way off from “true-metaverse”, it’s amazing seeing so many people getting involved in exploring the potential of the space, engaging with their fans and consumers in new and exciting ways.
And finally, How do you use your wallet?
Lots of different ways. I’ve got different things sitting in different wallets and on different blockchains. I’ve got a range of sports based NFTs sitting in different wallets, from the aforementioned NBA and NFL drops sitting in one, WWE and Mercedes F1 pieces sitting in others. Miniscule amounts of cryptocurrencies are also scattered across various wallets, but the main use of my wallet is as my access pass to different Web3 experiences. My MetaMask wallet for example, is connected to various metaverse and NFT platforms (Decentraland, Sandbox, OpenSea, etc). Whilst it’s already happening in some areas, I’m keen to see more interoperability between these Web3 initiatives at which point my wallet will become my master key to all things Web3.