How NFTs are monetizing sports fanbases

There’s no one more committed than a sports fan. They are famously dedicated—willing to wait in line for hours or even days, to travel cross country, or even across the world to watch their favorite teams and players perform. They brave the bitter cold and scorching heat to cheer for their idols—nothing can stand in their way. Shrewd businesspeople have been monetizing their passion for decades, selling paraphernalia like jerseys, jackets, hats, pins, player cards, and almost any item that can be emblazoned with a team logo or sold with an autograph. 

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a great way to monetize passion, and therefore, a short time after they were first introduced in fields like art and gaming, NFTs hit the sports world. NFTs have given sports aficionados a venue to express their fan-powered passion and may be positioned to disrupt the ecosystem of fans, players, brands, teams, and leagues.  During the pandemic, when they couldn’t attend live sporting events, NFTs also offered a way for fans to connect and engage with their favorite teams without leaving home. 

Just a quick reminder—NFTs are digital assets that sit on a blockchain. Like in all blockchains, it is very clear who created the NFT and who owns it at any given time. When ownership is transferred, there is a clear chain of ownership detailed in the blockchain, protecting copyright. Like in other domains, in the sports world, NFTs eliminate the need for middlemen like agents and marketing agencies. Teams and players can create a direct connection with their fan bases, without intermediaries or revenue leakage. Teams and players are empowered and can earn lifelong royalties any time their NFTs are bought or sold. 

How are NFTs being used in the sports world today? Let’s look at some of the leading use cases. 

Fantasy sports

Sports fans are enthusiastic armchair coaches, sitting in the bleachers or on the couch and giving advice to their teams. They often feel that if only the teams would listen to them, they would succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Fantasy sports give them an opportunity to manage teams and show what they can do. 

Sorare is a great example of the potential of NFTs in fantasy sports. Created in 2018, the fantasy soccer game allows players to buy, sell, trade, and manage a virtual team with blockchain player cards using Ethereum-based technology. Like in traditional fantasy sports, teams are ranked and given points based on the performance of their players in real-life soccer games. However, since the player cards are licensed NFTs that use the ERC-721 token standard, they have provable scarcity and are owned personally by a gamer. That allows their value to appreciate or depreciate based on the market.

Sorare has licensing partnerships with over 200 soccer clubs, including top European clubs like Real Madrid, allowing them to use official branding and content like photos and player names. More than $150 million worth of cards have already been traded on the platform1, and as more teams are signed on, that number is expected to rise. Investors believe in the potential—Sorare has raised over $7 million in several funding rounds2.

Other sports are starting similar fantasy initiatives, such as a digital horse racing platform called Zed Run which allows players to buy horses as NFTs and run them in races. More sports fantasy NFT platforms are likely to be created in coming years. 

Highlight clips

One of the most exciting initiatives in sports NFTs is NBA Top Shot. Launched in October 2020, the NFT sports application is a partnership between Dapper Labs, a blockchain company, and the NBA. It offers a marketplace for fans to buy and sell highlight clips of top basketball games, coupled with NBA-licensed digital items as NFTs. Committed basketball fans are already showing their enthusiasm. Less than a year after it was launched, NBA Top Shot has already made over $700 million in sales3.

NBA Top Shot is not alone. Other sports leagues are launching their own NFT marketplaces including Candy Digital for baseball NFTs, UFC for Mixed Martial Arts NFTs, and NASCAR for stock car racing NFTs. 

Event ticketing

An NFT can add value to all types of products, and sports events are one option where that enhancement has significant potential. For example, instead of selling tickets to games, teams could sell game NFTs. In addition to enabling entrance into the event, they could also serve as memorabilia, and over time, that memorabilia might even gain value, like ticket stubs from iconic games in the past. 

An event NFT could also provide value beyond memorabilia. For example, the NFT could be used to access perks like drinks and snacks at the game, or even a chance to shake hands with the players. NFTs could even be used to create a fan community where owners could share experiences after the game. Like in other NFT use cases, ticket NFTs would also reduce the need for middlemen. The revenue from the NFT ticket sales could go directly to the team. 

Equity in clubs

In traditional sports business models, major investors buy sports teams and run them as a business, according to their own whims and incentives. Fans don’t have a say and don’t benefit from their passion. NFTs could change that calculus. They could be set up as equity, allowing fans to purchase an NFT that would make them the owners of a small slice of their favorite team and the team’s profits. Fans might actually earn money by going to games and encouraging others to join them. For passionate fans, it doesn’t get better than that!

Although that type of financial model has not yet been tried, it has the potential to revolutionize the world of professional sports in the future. 

Sports art and player cards

DraftKings, a well-known sports betting site recently launched a marketplace for sports and sport art NFTs.  Unlike other sports NFT initiatives, it is an open marketplace that invites creators to sell their works. According to a company statement issued in July 2021, on the marketplace “millions of customers will have the ability to seamlessly buy, sell and trade digital collectibles across sports, entertainment and culture using their existing DraftKings account. Additionally, as part of a new strategic relationship, DraftKings Marketplace will also be the exclusive distributor of sports-related NFT content from NFT platform Autograph, which leverages official licensing of prominent athletes and celebrities to provide a wide array of digital collectibles.4” Since DraftKings is a publicly traded company, it is, in our opinion,  one of the top NFT stocks available today. 

What is NFT stock and how to invest in NFT stock

Some sports NFTs have sold for six or even seven figures5, but there’s something for everyone—sports NFTs are being offered for as little as a few dollars. And if the team does well, the resale value for sports NFTs could rise too.  Dedicated fans are expected to continue spending in this field as more sports NFT options are created, positioning this field for growth, including in NFT stocks. 

What are NFT stocks? NFT stocks are shares in companies active in the promising NFT arena, offering an exciting investment opportunity. However, like with any new domain, some initiatives will rise to the top and win big, while others will disappear entirely. That translates into risky investments, as there really is no way to know what NFT stocks to buy as the NFT stock price fluctuates all the time.  

Another option for investors who see the potential of NFTs in fields like sports is to diversify investments in the field through a NFT ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) such as Defiance’s NFTZ. Rather than trying to pick what you think might be the best NFT stocks, NFTZ enables you to invest in several different companies in the NFT ecosystem rather than focusing on a single company or specific NFTs. Although it can be bought and sold like a stock, the net asset value of an investment in NFTZ is linked to the value of its composite stocks, which in this case, are stocks on an NFT stocks list, an index of publicly listed companies with relevant thematic exposure to the NFT, blockchain, and cryptocurrency ecosystems. Therefore, investing in an NFT ETF gives you exposure to this new and exciting sector while mitigating the risk of buying an individual NFT stock or asset.  And that’s something anyone can cheer for!

1 “Sorare raises $680 million for its fantasy sports NFT game”, September 21, 2021


3 “How NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs is mainstreaming NFTs”, August 23, 2021

4 “DraftKings Marketplace to Launch as NFT Ecosystem and Exchange” July 21, 2021 

5 Most Expensive Sports NFTs in the World”, April 20, 2021