In recent times, blockchain technology has become a popular buzzword in certain sectors. In the sporting arena, and especially football, a number of interesting blockchain use cases in football are quickly gaining traction. The likes of Juventus and Barcelona are already capitalizing on blockchain in football with successful fan tokens as well as a push into non fungible tokens (NFTs). The Covid-19 pandemic forced many of these teams to react, and their revamped blockchain-powered, digital strategies have been widely praised and very successful.
Even with fans returning to the stadium, and life coming back to normal, the repercussions of Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on the way football is enjoyed by consumers. The desire to be more than a person in a seat from fans means a higher expectation for teams to offer an opportunity for deeper fan engagement.
The race to innovate with blockchain in football has already begun with the world’s largest clubs leading the charge. Blockchain use cases in football have already been rolled out at the highest levels while the solutions and implementations are getting more sleek and streamlined.
From fan tokens to the digital collectible ( NFTs), football fans have a hunger to be closer to the team — even if that means a bit of social distancing — and teams are now finding new ways to engage fans, digitally. Blockchain loyalty and ticket programs, as well as a new wave of crypto sports sponsorships, also offer ways for teams to gain revenue, simplify their processes, and streamline operations.
The impact of Covid-19
While Covid-19 brought the shutters down on stadiums for a while, it has only further highlighted the need for teams to assess and address internal strategies related to fan engagement and experience, revenue growth and data insights. The sports industry has notoriously been slow to adapt and innovate beyond the on-field play, but that is changing, and changing out of necessity.
Before the pandemic, ticket sales and sponsorships were waning globally across the football world. The new wave of paying fans are primarily digitally native, and the explosion of e-sports proves the direction that these fans are heading when it comes to consuming sports content. Boosting and maintaining fan engagement was never a high priority for teams, but the fan base has shifted and evolved to be digitally native faster than teams have managed to keep up. Even collecting data on these issues has been a low priority.
The digital resources available to football teams should be leveraged even further in a post-Covid-19 world. By deploying a more diverse digital strategy, and utilising blockchain in football, teams will be able to more effectively utilise, manage and monetise existing resources and capabilities.
Leveraging current technologies, while simultaneously adopting new ones, like blockchain, provides football teams with a more robust and holistic strategy that can overcome prevalent problems while providing new revenue streams and avenues for fan engagement.
Bringing Blockchain to Life in Football
Blockchain doesn’t need to be a complex and costly undertaking for a football team. It does not even have to be a disruptive implementation, it just needs to be effective in solving challenges, and advancing digital strategies for teams.
There are four primary blockchain use cases in soccer that are easily obtainable today for teams; Fan Tokens, Digital Collectables (NFTs), Blockchain Loyalty Platforms and Crypto Sponsorship.
Blockchain fan tokens are one such new blockchain application sweeping the football world recently. They have already started gaining traction at some of the world’s biggest sports teams, such as FC Barcelona, Juventus and PSG, and are becoming more and more popular.
These digital tokens are arguably one of the most popular blockchain use cases in football. They allow for a new team-based economy to be created, and one that has a personalizable VIP aspect to it as well. Tokens in the ecosystem are bought, sold, earnt and redeemed around the team structure by fans to boost engagement.
Fans can buy and use these tokens to unlock exclusive experiences and rewards. High-level engagement, such as voting rights, can alo be attributed to fan tokens to give fans the chance to vote on decisions such as what song is played when a goal is scored, or the colour of the training kit etc. For teams, they’re used to engage fans digitally, and as a new revenue stream.
This may sound similar to traditional loyalty programs that operate with points, but through blockchain tech, the fan token is traceable, secure and fully verifiable helping with integration across sponsors and global entities without the need for intermediaries.
A popular new wave of blockchain applications has recently hit the mainstream in the form of NFT digital collectables. These non-fungible tokens are also purpose-built for a football setting in that they can evolve a traditionally popular football collectable, like trading cards or football stickers, into blockchain football cards which have the potential to be a thriving digital revenue stream.
Through blockchain, digital collectables become unique, authentic, but easily distributable, and a new way to engage with fans while again providing a new revenue model. The popularity of NFTs has already seen major football clubs venturing into this market of team-themed digital collectables and blockchain football cards. Even footballing superstar Pelé has entered the NFT space, launching his first NFT in May of this year.
Loyalty and Rewards
Loyalty programs in the football industry are nothing new, but that is perhaps the problem — there has been very little growth or evolution in this area. Many digitally native fans are no longer keen to use traditional loyalty programs offering poor rewards that are not interoperable or transferable, and they also do not appreciate the often complex on-boarding and low visibility of these programs. With blockchain, loyalty programs can increase fan engagement, reward profit-building behaviour and boost sponsor ROI in ways previously unheard of.
By introducing sponsors or partners into a single streamlined loyalty network, football teams are able to unlock new opportunities that encourage further profit-building behaviour. These loyalty programs can be more enticing, where fans can earn points by buying match tickets and then use the points at a sponsor store, for example.
Furthermore, the opportunity to seamlessly integrate sponsors into the loyalty programs is made that much easier by the lack of intermediaries and constant supervision. Therefore, sponsors can measure and gain better ROI, by having better visibility and real-time fan behaviour data. Fans are also incentivised to engage with sponsors more within the loyalty platform leading to closer and more profitable business relationships.
Cryptocurrency platforms and companies have also flooded into the football marketplace as they look to engage with a new market. Scottish giants, Glasgow Rangers FC, have signed with Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Bitci Technology and Premier League side Southampton signed a sponsorship deal that includes an option for the club to be paid certain performance-based bonuses in Bitcoin. This opens up opportunities to work alongside cryptocurrency exchanges as sponsors, especially with having a digital strategy that already incorporates a blockchain backbone.
An all-encompassing solution
Incorporating a blockchain solution into your football team’s infrastructure may seem daunting at first, but with Protokol, creating a purpose-built solution for your team is made simple and efficient. At Protokol, we have a streamlined and modular approach to creating solutions for football teams that allow for customisation, integration with existing solutions, and a simple and effective solution that delivers.
With fan engagement, loyalty and new revenue creation in mind, Protokol can build a solution that works for your team based on the creation of fan tokens, digital collectables and loyalty & reward programs.
Our approach is flexible and adaptable meaning we can work with your team to meet your specific needs. Furthermore, the modular design of our solutions means even additional blockchain-based services can also be possible — such as next-generation ticketing.
If your team wants to understand in greater detail how blockchain in football can help you address challenges around fan engagement, or revenue generation and help achieve your new digital strategic priorities, have a conversation with our experts. We’ll help you explore how blockchain tech can help you engage with your fans, reward loyalty, drive better ROI for sponsors and leverage new revenue streams. Contact us to learn more, or to learn more about how blockchain is being applied into other areas of the sports industry, visit our blockchain in sports page.