Updated Nov 21, 2021 - Sports

Sports tickets meet NFTs

Illustration of a admittance ticket in a frame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The mobile revolution replaced paper tickets with digital barcodes. Now comes the next leap: upgrading barcodes to non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Driving the news: Teams and leagues are experimenting with NFTs as a way to increase the value of digital tickets, with the ultimate goal of rewarding (and thus increasing) attendance.

  • In some cases, the ticket is the NFT, which can be collected or resold. Think: digital ticket stubs.
  • In other cases, the ticket grants access to a separate NFT, which can also be collected or resold. Think: digital bobbleheads.
Screenshot of NFL NTFs
Screenshot: NFL NFTs

Example No. 1: The NFL announced Thursday that it will attach NFTs to tickets for 21 select games this season. Once attendees scan into the game, they'll receive an email with a link to obtain their NFT.

  • Tickets must be purchased through Ticketmaster, StubHub or SeatGeek to be eligible. The NFTs can be stored on Ticketmaster or sold on its marketplace.
  • Side note: The NFL also sold 4,000 collectibles representing each NFL team for $10 each on Thursday (pictured above, nothing to do with tickets). Those are all now selling for hundreds on the resale market.
Screenshot of Mavs Collectibles
Screenshot: Mavs Collectibles

Example No. 2: The Mavericks are giving NFTs to home game attendees, also via Ticketmaster. Some are digital ticket stubs (see above), while others are "MetaMavs Legends" (the pixelated dudes above).

  • "The whole idea is to reward fans for coming," says Mavs owner Mark Cuban. "You can't just buy a ticket and not go. What gets you the NFT is that you actually [scan your ticket]. And if you go to 10 games ... there will be rewards for that."
  • "Let's say Luka has a 30 assist game," adds Cuban. "There are going to be 500,000 people that say they were there, right? But the reality is, the people who are actually there are the ones who get the NFT commemorating that game."
  • Food for thought: The Mavericks are retiring Dirk Nowitzki's No. 41 on Jan. 5. Instead of commemorative shirts, perhaps fans will get Dirk-inspired NFTs that can be collected or sold (for way more than a shirt).

The big picture: The magic of NFTs is that they create verifiable digital scarcity and ownership. We communicate digitally. We work digitally. We live digitally. Why should collectibles be any different?

"The bobblehead was all the rage for years, and teams definitely saw higher ticket prices on 'Bobblehead Night.' But if you think about that value prop, it's not that great. You have to get there super early. You have to carry it around all game and not lose it. And then you get home and put it on your desk. ... The physicalness actually reduces the value, I think. So transitioning to a digital version makes a ton of sense."
Brad Griffith, CEO and founder of ticketing app Gametime

What's next: For now, these attendance-based NFTs are still linked to actual tickets, which are used to enter the venue. In the future, the NFTs could be the tickets, themselves.

  • All transactions would be stored on the Blockchain, thereby increasing transparency and all but eliminating fraud.
  • NFT tickets would also allow the original seller (like a sports team) to track all resales, and get a cut each time the ticket changes hands.

Go deeper: Staples Center goes crypto

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