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How the EuroLeague is using NFTs, Fantasy Sports and the Metaverse to deepen fan relationships

Disruption and innovation have been core tenets of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague since its inception two decades ago. It is now firmly established as the most prestigious basketball competition in Europe, and digital technologies have played a crucial role in this success.

At the season-ending Final Four in Belgrade last month, the league launched new broadcast innovations and a virtual reality (VR) platform to engage viewers to watch the action unfold at home.

But the reality is that TV shows can only engage fans for a few hours a week. The advent of mobile technology and social media has helped expand this relationship, but multiple activities and organizations compete for each sports fan’s time and attention.

This challenge is why so many people within the sports industry are excited about Web 3.0. Blockchain-based technologies have the potential to transform the way fans interact with and consume sport, opening up a range of engagement and revenue opportunities.

The EuroLeague is convinced that Web 3.0 can help it realize its ultimate ambition of “24/7 engagement” and has been carefully crafting and refining its strategy for some time. While he wanted to be an early adopter, he was also acutely aware of the embryonic nature of the industry and some of the criticisms of crypto-based technologies.

Now, after over a year of careful planning, the EuroLeague is ready to enter the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and bring its legions of fans across Europe into the metaverse.

EuroLeague set to launch video-based digital collectibles with Clancy

patient innovation

From the start, EuroLeague’s Web 3.0 strategy focused on fan engagement rather than speculation. He was adamant that any blockchain-based product would not be exploitative and should provide genuine value to fans. Tokens can take the form of a highly desirable collectible or provide additional benefits such as tickets, merchandise, or experience.

He believed that the utility of these tokens was what gave them value for fans to buy and sell, not because they were an item that would be traded like stocks or commodities.

“We have a responsibility to keep our fans safe,” said Rayde Baez, a former Euroleague digital content and marketing manager and now a strategic consultant who helped shape the league’s strategy. SportsPro. “We cannot take them to places that are unknown to them and they [spend] their life savings. With a certain [crypto applications] there is a certain element of risk but we do not sell financial instruments. We are an entertainment company and we will provide features.

During the lockdown, the EuroLeague was inundated with approaches from various companies claiming to be able to help the organization with its Web 3.0 strategy. But the first experiments did not yield the expected results and the organization’s digital and commercial teams decided to “pause” their efforts in order to better understand the technological landscape and develop an effective strategy.

“It was the Wild West there,” recalls Baez. “Even though we know [Web 3.0] had enormous potential, that particular potential was not evident at the time.

The EuroLeague set out to create an approach that would allow it to maximize the benefits and revenue of Web 3.0 while mitigating the risks to itself and its fans. The decision was made to work with multiple partners rather than a single end-to-end supplier, as this would allow it to diversify risk and choose the best partner for each product category.

Although the EuroLeague ultimately believes crypto-based technologies can be applied to everything from ticketing to how individual clubs run their back office, the most obvious areas of interest during the first phase implementation were categories analogous to physical products such as trading cards.

Real-valued NFTs

“EuroLeague Euroreels” are video-based digital collectibles based on key moments from the 2021/22 season. Each “card” is minted as an NFT and combines the images with information and stats to create a unique collectible that can be traded with other fans. Each item is available in different rarities and will provide owners with perks such as early access to game tickets and exclusive merchandise.

Euroreels was created with Canadian blockchain specialist Clancy, who first approached the EuroLeague over a year ago. In the end, the EuroLeague was won over by Clancy’s experience, technological capabilities and willingness to work closely together to ensure competition standards were met.

“We chose Clancy because their technology is very robust and they give our partnership a level of attention to detail that we demand from our partners,” says Jose Luis Rosa Medina, Senior Director of Partnerships and Corporate Licensing at Clancy. Euroleague. “We don’t want to be just a number in a big partnership [presentation] slip and have a very superficial relationship.

To minimize the threat of Euroreels being monopolized by speculators, the EuroLeague is inviting fans to join a beta phase so they can create accounts and be alerted when the initial drop goes on sale.

The second major blockchain-based initiative is fantasy basketball. Fantasy sports is one of the most effective ways to keep fans’ attention outside of games, as success hinges on staying up to date with all the latest news and player developments. Players will interact with the app several times a week, watch more games because they want to see how their fantasy team is doing, and there’s a community aspect to it.

NFT-based fantasy sports builds on this commitment by allowing players to own and trade the assets they play with. These NFTs can also be used in the metaverse, allowing players to showcase their fandom and, like Euroreels, can also have additional perks that enhance their usefulness.

Starting next season, the EuroLeague will be part of Unagi’s “Ultimate Champions” platform, allowing players to buy, collect and trade officially licensed digital cards of their favorite players and build fantastic teams that will compete with other players. Ultimate Champions launched earlier this year with 35 different football partners, providing a proven platform that can be used for basketball.

Enter the Metaverse

The final element of EuroLeague’s initial forays into Web 3.0 is the Metaverse. The EuroLeague wanted to create an immersive environment where fans could express themselves and show their support for their favorite team. The vision was to create a ‘digital twin’ of the EuroLeague world that would add value to both fans and partners, something he didn’t think possible if he was just ‘buying land’ on a third-party platform.

“We have a strong stable of salespeople [partners] that we must serve so that we are not constrained by the rules of others,” says Rosa.

The result was ‘EuroLeague Land’, a digital environment on mobile devices, PCs and Oculus Quest headsets created by VRM. Here, fans create digital avatars, interact with each other, play games, and earn coins that unlock special features and cashless experiences. On top of that, fans can also earn Turkish Airlines “Miles and Smiles” points for their achievements in the Metaverse – proof of the business potential of the Metaverse.

Another example of how the metaverse is improving fan engagement is the plan for supporters of EuroLeague winners to purchase “championship ring” NFTs that allow anyone to share in the glory.

The EuroLeague is happy with its first forays into Web 3.0, but also understands that it is taking a long-term approach when it comes to blockchain. He thinks it will take time for crypto-based sports products to become a mainstream proposition, but wants to be ready for when the time comes. It is already planning to create a single market to unify its NFT propositions.

He says he will judge the success of his Web 3.0 projects by how well they drive engagement and add value to his partnerships. But ultimately, the plan is for cryptocurrency to build on and bolster the league’s reputation for innovation.

“The basketball world is unique in general because there is both the NBA and the EuroLeague [as major but distinct competitions]concludes Rosa. “Both are innovative in the way they shape sport and entertainment, but we have to play to our strengths, and we have many well-known clubs around the world, such as FC Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

“It’s a huge advantage that no other [sports] ownership has and these clubs can have a global and local impact in what is a very lifestyle-oriented sport.

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