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Blogger’s Park: Sports NFTs: A new collectibles game

Sreeram Ananthasayanam

Reminiscing sporting achievements and celebrating the on-screen crescendos of sport stars is an integral part of India’s entertainment culture. From Kapil Dev’s sixes and Neeraj Chopra’s throws, there are thousands of sporting events that are carved into our memories.

Add to it the iconic lines of “Mere paas maa hai” or “Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna maathiri”, there are countless on-screen moments that put a smile on our faces.

The propensity to interweave the on-field/screen experiences into everyday life through possession of memorabilia in the form of autographs or signed artifacts has always been high. It was inevitable that this strong personal association with sports and entertainment would find its way into digital media. With the emergence of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and the evolving digital trends in sports and entertainment, a deeper association between fans and their icons or brands was inevitable.

New kid on the block

NFTs enable ownership of a digital asset including but not limited to video/ audio/ photograph and allow transfer of ownership digitally. Fans can not only experience the digital version of their treasured sport event but also digitally own and trade them. As most sports/ entertainment NFTs do not inherently give ownership/rights, and, given that even ownership of digital assets does not guarantee exclusivity of its use, it is not uncommon to discern it as illogical. However, NFT owners claim it is as logical as owning a bat/ jacket signed by a beloved icon or owning printed cards of sports stars. NFTs enable the possession of the digital versions of such artifacts which has found many willing takers.

The Gen-Z population that grew in the post-broadband era sees huge applications for NFTs in their digital worlds. Through the right offerings and incentives, it is not unthinkable to make the space attractive to other generations as well, for whom NFTs may offer the first digital version of their cherished memories.

NFT’s growth potential

India’s icons have understood the significance, and many are on board. Amitabh Bachchan launched his NFT collection last year. Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan have also announced their NFT plans. Sunil Gavaskar, Yuvraj Singh and Rishabh Pant have launched themselves in the NFT space.

NFTs allow brands to re-orient their branding and marketing strategies through athletes to promote brand awareness and engagement. NFTs in games are driving fungibility across gaming platforms— a digital avatar can carry the NFT of a sports jersey across multiple gaming platforms. The buzz around metaverse and the brands venturing into this is  proving to be a blessing—as NFTs are seen as an integral part of the metaverse immersive experience.

NFTs have the potential to disrupt several conventional segments within the sports and entertainment sector. While early trends are promising, the sentiment could be summed up by a potential NFT from a line in a Bollywood movie that goes: “Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost”.

The author is partner, Deloitte India

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