Are NFT (non-fungible token) collectibles poised to become the modern equivalent of rare sports cards that generations have collected? One thing is for sure: blockchain is fast becoming a new platform for connecting sports stars with their legions of fans.
“It’s funny to consider the sudden rise of NFTs. After all, this was an asset class that’s been around in the industry from very early on, dating back to 2014. However, the growth observed in the space can be attributed to a willingness to experiment with new digital media and products amid a time of limited face-to-face engagement. Consider the rise of NFTs in sport — a sector which relies on in-person fan engagement and that energy of the in-stadium experience. With NBA Top Shot and even Zilliqa’s recently launched exclusive collection of Football Stars NFTs featuring global football giants, NFTs have been able to revitalize fan engagement, digitalizing sports memorabilia in a new way that allows creators, fans, and athletes alike to benefit from new monetization opportunities,” Zilliqa Co-CEO and Chief Commercial Officer Colin Miles told Digital Life Asia.
Engaging fans via NFTs
Zilliqa, a Singapore-based high-performance blockchain platform, has partnered with leading athlete commercial rights representation firm Polaris Sports to create and release exclusive NFT collectibles for 10 global football champions. The NFT collection, which dropped on June 6, includes:
- Former Chelsea and Atlético Madrid striker Diego Costa
- Everton F.C. and Colombia national team midfielder James Rodríguez
- Porto team captain and Portugal national team center-back Pepe
- Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas
- Galatasaray forward and Colombia national team captain Radamel “El Tigre” Falcao
- Liverpool F.C. and Portugal national team forward Diogo Jota
- Atlético Madrid and Portugal national team forward João Félix
- Wolverhampton Wanderers and Mexico national team forward Raúl Jiménez
- Lille and Portugal national team midfielder Renato Sanches
- Manchester City F.C. and Portugal national team center-back Rúben Dias
- SUPERPACK, a single collectible featuring all 10 players with additional never-before-seen footage
The NFT collection is inspired by traditional baseball cards as a digital, animated collectible that highlights notable player stats accompanied with unique graphics, player footage, and a personal video interview. As a collaborative undertaking, productions took place across Italy, Portugal, and Singapore, with on-location footage shot with the 10 football athletes across the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Portugal, and Turkey.
“During a period of time where we’ve been unable to engage with our fans and give them that full, stadium experience, NFTs have become a creative new way to keep that fan experience alive. As a tradable collectible, we hope that football fans enjoy the value that they can reap from the collection,” Costa said in a press statement.
Rise of NFT collectibles
Did Zilliqa see this sudden popularity of NFT collectibles coming?
“This growth was not entirely surprising to us. Since 2019, we’ve been supporters of Mintable, an online NFT minting and marketplace platform, that has since seen funding from renowned American venture capitalist Mark Cuban. During this time, we’ve seen the potential of NFTs as a legitimate medium for content creators and clearly, the boom in popularity during Q1 2021, reflects this,” Miles said.
“To date, Zilliqa has established partnerships with fantastic personalities from the entertainment and sporting worlds. We want to give these people a direct link to their fans — and what better way during a lockdown than digitally, and via scarce assets that can also be seen as a lucrative investment,” he said.
Not a fad
While it might be tempting to dismiss NFTs as just another fad, Miles firmly believes they are here to stay.
“The digital asset revolution has been long underway and NFTs are only a part of this. While mainstream audiences have only recently entered the scene, the state of the space today gestures toward the technology’s longterm potential. The types, functionalities, and business models may change over time, but I’d argue that NFTs are here to stay.
“Over time, we’re likely to see partnerships that go beyond commercial deals, instead evolving to those that encourage more talent to enter the space. At Zilliqa, for example, we recently joined forces with the Y-Lab, the Art x Tech incubator of National Gallery Singapore, in order to better connect with the art community, and understand their needs and concerns about NFTs, while simultaneously minimizing their barriers to entry,” Miles said.
The company is also launching a creator’s fund that will function like a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) and commission physical and digital works from artists. This fund will collect and invest in NFTs deployed on Zilliqa.
Making blockchain more sustainable
He also addressed concerns over the environmental impact of blockchain.
“As a whole, the issue of sustainability can be addressed on two fronts — on a network design level as well as on an energy level. Both have their own unique considerations to take into account that can’t be solved by one project alone, but provided a promising starting point insofar as broadening the dialogue on a more environmentally-sound blockchain ecosystem. For example, one way that some mining businesses are looking to address this is by looking to exclusively use green energy sources where possible as opposed to coal and fossil fuels. On a network level, other blockchain platforms that enable the creation of NFTs don’t use PoW (proof of work) — this means that managing the network is less computationally intensive.
“Beyond the security and technical prowess Zilliqa has boasted since its inception, we’re also committed to being a sustainable and extremely low carbon footprint platform. Zilliqa effectively mines only one minute every two hours, meaning there’s only a marginal environmental cost. To further realize this sustainability vision, we have started an initiative to become carbon neutral. We build on a concept of ‘carbon credits’ represented through tokens. Each credit corresponds to a certain measure of usage. We will purchase these carbon credits to offset the current footprint. The corresponding value is then donated to support environmental projects which aim to restore healthier atmospheric conditions via mangroves or rainforests,” Miles said.
So, are you ready to collect NFTs?