How NFTs are Changing the Sports Industry: The Association NFT, Curry Brand, and Basketball Headz | NFTGo Research
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How NFTs are Changing the Sports Industry: The Association NFT, Curry Brand, and Basketball Headz Research Research0x7bA5A3Jun 23, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • At present, the volume of NFTs in the sports industry is still relatively small compared to GameFi and art, but with the involvement of NBA, NFL, FIFA and other top ten global sports leagues in NFTs and Web3-related businesses, the field is expected to grow.
  • At this stage, most sports companies venture into NFTs by outsourcing, selling cards, and GameFi licensing. Some superstars also venture into Web3 using their popularity.
  • Curry's Basketball Headz involves community and generation. NF3 Basketball will be launched on June 22 at 0.08 ETH. Additionally, Curry Brand collaborates with CyberKongz, HAPE, Smilesss and Chibi Dinos to launch special serums.

Recently, Curry won the NBA FMVP, and many people on Twitter claim "Curry is the first Boring Ape to win the NBA championship." To some extent, Curry's association with bored apes is a case of NFT's identity attributes, and this is just a glimpse of the trend. On a macroscopic level, this correlation actually corresponds to the linkage between the sports industry and Web3. This year, with the comeback of most professional leagues, the success of the Olympics, the World Cup craze, etc., we might witness an explosion of the sports industry into the Web3 space.

The sports industry's search for new and diversified changes advances the current crypto trend. On one hand, they hope to nurture a deeper emotional connection with fans and enhance their experiences. On the other hand, the sports industry and teams are looking for new streams of revenue as digitization grows and transforms.

Path 1: Outsourcing + Card Sales (NBA Series)

At present, NBA Top Shot remains one of the most successful examples of the NBA's venture into NFTs. This collection features highlights of NBA star athletes and turns them into NFTs for fans to buy, sell and trade. In addition, the project is also using NBA resources to develop new NFT-related opportunities, such as VIP NFTs and celebrity unpacking. Also, the NBA is attempting various Web3 integrations like The Association NFTs.

Create Consumption Hierarchies with VIP Pass

In March, the NBA and NBA Top Shot partnered to create 1/1 NFTs for each team. These NFTs are designed for super fans. Those who hold these NFTs will be given VIP access to benefits including meeting 5 star athletes and getting access to every NBA All-Star Game series for 5 years. For each successful bidder, the platform also gives 51 top NBA NFTs, and each year the NBA League will also provide exclusive VIP merchandise packages, NBA All-Star jerseys, behind-the-scenes footage of the All-Star Game, photo opportunities, arena tours and other benefits.

Establishing a VIP NFT business signifies the official extension of customized NFT services to the sports market, and proves that the sports industry intends to create new consumption scenarios by classifying fans with NFTs.

New York Knicks VIP NFT bid at $63,100.

The Association NFT

Besides NBA Top Shot launching on Flow, the NBA also started an NFT-themed Twitter account in March this year, and announced its first NFT product on April 20: The Association. The Association is a product dedicated to Web3 users and focuses on real-time features and interactions. The project is on Ethereum and supports secondary market transactions on OpenSea.

The first tweet of NBAxNFT.

NFTs on OpenSea

Similar to Moonbirds, The Association uses a technology that alters the appearances of the athlete card NFTs according to the athlete's performance in the playoffs. There are a total of 24 conditions that can trigger card changes, such as shutouts, three pointers, etc. The introduction of this mechanism strengthens the nurturing attributes of the NFT. For users, they can purchase their favorite NFTs and expect gains in value, which will greatly enhance user engagement.

The Association is a demonstration of the integration between the NBA and the mainstream NFT market. Yet, this also exposes some existing concerns, such as contract loopholes and community operational issues. The Association is created by licensed NBA initiators and an outsourced team, therefore the initiators do not possess full control of the project, which is why holders share a sense of separation—some of them own NBA NFTs on both Flow and Ethereum.

Path 2: Brand Collaboration + GameFi Platform (Sorare)

Sorare is a soccer game that uses blockchain technology based on Ethereum. It enables players to purchase club- or league-certified NFT cards of soccer players and form their own teams to participate in matches in the game. Furthermore, Sorare's platform also introduces the card-drawing element where players make profits through secondary markets and NFT auctions.

The Official Site of Sorare

Sorare has created an on-chain soccer team managing system integrated with offline brands, and designed a new type of experience that features card activation, NFT trading, team competition and rewards. It also reinforces the connection between rewards and competitiveness by adopting a reward system. The system offers benefits, such as gifts and offline tickets, to top players so they will buy more NFTs.

Rarity classifications of cards.

The Virtual + Reality Business Model

Unlike other GameFi projects, Sorare has been working commercially with sports organizations, including clubs and leagues. Currently, over 130 European soccer clubs have launched their own NFTs on the Sorare platform, including well-known European soccer clubs such as Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid and Liverpool.

To discover more commercial uses of NFTs, on February 4, Sorare invited developers to create a game with Sorare Legends and retired player cards on Game Jam. By creating an open API and establishing partnerships with other game developers, the value of the NFTs can be maximized.

Sorare attracted users by building a soccer GameFi platform, while vigorously promoting its own NFT trading platform and signing up with soccer organizations. At the same time, it opens up access to its own NFTs to encourage derivative works. In less than two years, the company is estimated to be worth over $1 billion. However, due to its high dependence on the Ethereum network, Sorare had to find solutions to optimize transaction speed and fees. In July last year, the company adopted solutions by StarkWare and then switched to ZK-rollups. These problems are inevitable for Sorare's business.

Path 3: Personal brand + Community (Curry Brand)

Integrating Celebrity Player Activities with Web3

Powered by Under Armour, Curry Brand will launch the cross-community NFT project Basketball Headz. In previous playoffs, the project team has done community building centered on Stephen Curry, such as the NFT MEETS NF3 campaign: every 3-pointer Curry scored in the playoff activates 9 NFTs for free minting in a limited time. Community-oriented activities tailored to the characteristics of the player are able to motivate fans effectively.

Rewarding fans with NFTs

Curry Brand has not only attached community attributes to each campaign through Web3, but also rewarded Curry's loyal fans through NFT, such as releasing Curry's co-branded NFT in the virtual space. These sneakers have 5 levels of rarities and are "wearable" on Decentraland, The Sandbox, Gala Games and RKL. By attracting resources through celebrity IPs, project developers are able to better benefit their fans as well as make them feel proud of their community. Users with Genesis Curry Flow are empowered to the free mint of NF3 basketballs and combine them with IP Serums to create customized avatars for Basketball Headz.

The Genesis Curry Flow Sneaker

Community collaborations

In addition to building its own community, Curry Brand is planning to interact with other Web3 communities. Basketball Headz is their first step of the plan. Fans participate in Web3 activities related to Curry to obtain basketball NFTs. Then, using serum NFTs from community partners (CyberKongz, HAPE, Chibi Dinos, and Smilesss), owners can mutate their original NFTs. This is good in many ways, including making the game more interesting and utilizing the strengths of different Web3 communities.

Collaborations with other communities

Path 4: NFT-Based Sports Ecosystem + Fans DAO

Why Ecosystem + DAO?

Most sports organizations would choose to partner up with various public chains to offer their NFTs, such as NBA on Flow and MLB on WAX. This practice binds fans to other public chains, making future development very limited.

For example, if the NBA intends to establish a GameFi project, would it be ideal to collaborate with Flow again? Other chains to consider are Solana and WAX. If they choose Solana this time, users may find the experience quite "disconnected", because collectibles are on Flow, gaming NFTs are on Solana, and social media avatars are on Ethereum. Even though cross-chain solutions are available, glitches will still need to be solved.

The sports industry is characterized by its wide range of businesses, diversity of roles, and resourcefulness. Hence, scattering businesses on multiple chains wouldn't be ideal for expansion and the construction of an economic system.

NFT-Based Sports Ecosystem

In reality, the economic size of sports organizations is enormous and involves numerous business structures which include event content, media promotion, financial derivatives, etc. One of the ways to transfer the entire industry onto Web3 is to create the entertainment ecosystem. Not only does this enhance user experience, but it also forms a closed loop with its fan base, thus maximizing its value.

As seen from the figure above, the integration of NFTs and sports involves a wide range of businesses:

  • Digital Tickets, Identity Verification

    This includes conventional tickets and proof of offline events. The collectible value of NFTs makes tickets more versatile. For instance, get a celebrity DAO NFT by buying three tickets. When individual tickets or season tickets are bundled with NFTs, it becomes a financial product and investment tool. Also, long-term holders of quality tickets can be rewarded with new tickets. This model creates new revenue streams for ticket holders, teams, and leagues.

  • GameFi Based on Public Chains
    Issuing NFTs for developers, guilds and fans. For example, players holding Pass NFTs have access to a series of GameFi and in-game bonuses. Businesses share value through NFTs to greatly improve user experience and create a closed-loop economy of fan traffic.

  • Fan-based DAO Economy Celebrities can issue their own subDAOs on the public chain and maintain it with NFT verification and token incentives. This allows for direct communication between fans and celebrities, as well as increases the income of the celebrities. With DAOs, the role of the fans may be further developed. Socios, for example, offers fans an experience that exceeds that of an ordinary fan. By purchasing tokens, fans are given access to the governance guaranteed by the DAO, voting rights to the naming of training locations, and choosing the song to be played when a player scores a goal. We can expect to see some core team functions being delegated to fans in the future.

  • Content Copyrights
    The sports industry generates a large amount of content. Such information can be recorded via NFTs and then displayed or utilized on the public chain.


The discovery of commercial value cannot be separated from the exploration of NFT attributes. NFT's collectible attribute spawned NBA Top Shot; identity verification attribute spawned VIP Pass; game attribute spawned sports-related games like Sorare, and PFP community attribute spawned PFP communities based on superstar-centric consensus.

Currently, the sports industry is merely experimenting with NFTs. As more businesses transfer to Web3, and with the development of multi- and cross-chain technology, an entertainment ecosystem might await us in the future.

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Note: The above information is for informational purposes only. Investing in digital assets such as NFTs and cryptocurrency brings with it a high degree of risk. Please consult with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions. NFTGo does not provide financial advice and is not responsible for any losses incurred as a result of investing in digital assets.

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