Sports & The Metaverse (A Complete Breakdown)
We already spend 1/3 of our day in a digital "metaverse", how will it translate over to sports?
As Mark Zuckerberg attempts one of the boldest business moves of all time, the goal to plunge humanity into the metaverse has never been more imminent.
And I get it, something about living as a digital avatar in a fantasy world feels odd.
But let’s face it, most of us already spend the majority of our days in the digital world anyway.
A recent survey shows that the average person spends 6 hours and 55 minutes in front of a screen daily (longer than most of us sleep). 🤯
The metaverse is about bringing your “social media” character to life. It’s about hanging out with your online friends and not just “liking” their pictures.
Sports entities realize the potential (and have been quicker than most other industries to roll out agendas in the metaverse).
The Brooklyn Nets created the “Netaverse”. Magic Johnson acquired a football franchise in the virtual world. And yesterday, Steph Curry filed a trademark for the metaverse.
The collision of sports and the metaverse is fascinating.
Let’s Dive In 👇
What is the Metaverse?
Think of the metaverse as a massive game-like virtual world where you can:
go to work
hang out with friends
watch concerts/sporting events
dozens of other real-life activities
It's the convergence of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), gamification, digital community, and the physical world.
Venture capitalist/Author Matthew Ball sums it up perfectly:
“What’s important is to recognize the Metaverse isn’t a game, a piece of hardware, or an online experience.
This is like saying World of Warcraft, the iPhone, or Google is the Internet. They are digital worlds, devices, services, websites, etc.
The Internet is a wide set of protocols, technology, tubes, and languages — plus access devices, content, and communication experiences atop them. The Metaverse will be too.”
The metaverse is being built today and we need to think of it as the next big tech platform.
It will merge physical reality with the digital universe to create a dual world.
Metaverse x Sports
Every major company in the world has a website on the internet.
And soon, they will all have a real-time presence in the metaverse (meaning companies will have to build digital versions of themselves).
For example, the Red Sox will have a virtual Fenway Park. Disney will create its theme parks in the metaverse. And Nike will have stores to go buy new shoes.
I emphasize this a lot but…
At their core, sports organizations are media and entertainment companies.
I know it can be weird to think of your favorite basketball player no differently than an actor, comedian, or musician — but at the end of the day, it’s one and the same.
Sports tell a story, build a love around it, and then monetize.
Sports organizations (and companies) need to understand this shift to make sure their stories can live in this digital universe and continue attracting fans from all over the world.
Digital goods and monetization will follow — the metaverse is a massive fan engagement tool, revenue driver, and avenue for direct interaction.
Here’s something I’m seeing…
My cousin is 14 years old — born in 2008, he’s technically a GenZ but closer to Gen Alpha.
He has very little interest in watching sports on TV (and even less interest in going to a game).
But he loves playing video games like Madden football, FIFA soccer, and Fortnite.
He has control over the outcome of the game, team management, and decision-making. On top of all that, he can play alongside his friends.
All the newest video games — Fortnite, Roblox, COD Warzone — are community-based games where you as an individual can play and participate however you want.
I believe sports are headed on a similar path (the younger generation’s attention spans are too short for these long games we’re currently used to).
Sports Metaverse Companies
We can’t ignore the fact that big tech will have initiatives here (and push for their own metaverses).
Meta, Microsoft, Apple, and Google are already making moves in the space.
Almost 10,000 Facebook staff are said to be working on AR and VR devices to lead more of us into the metaverse.
Let’s look at some of the niche players building in the sports metaverse space:
Just like sports teams have their own websites, they will soon have their own virtual stadiums.
In May, the Atlanta Braves released a digital version of Truist Park in the metaverse.
The B2B play is strong — 99% of organizations will outsource metaverse development.
Surreal Events is a virtual event platform for conferences, trade shows, showrooms, activations, and live events from 100 to 50,000 people.
LootMogul is a sports metaverse for athletes, brands, and fans.
Instead of building their own metaverse, it’s easier for organizations and companies to use third-party solutions.
In late 2021, Nike acquired the digital sneaker platform RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”).
CEO John Donahoe pinpointed it perfectly “This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming, and culture”.
Nike has always been ahead of the game — which is why they want you walking around the metaverse in Nikes (not some generic Fortnite shoe).
Were they early to the game?
Yes — but it’s better early than late. Tech moves slowly and then fast all at once.
The problem and opportunity for sports organizations is globalization.
Sports are extremely tribal — and physical location plays a large role in that.
It’s also why you don’t wear a Yankees hat in South Boston (one of my college teammates found that out the hard way).
To maintain fan engagement in the digital world, Socios created a “fan token” and has partnered with many of the top teams across the world.
At the end of the day, it’s a fan loyalty and rewards app.
Zetly’s platform creates a unique ecosystem of club tokens, NFT, sports memorabilia, and a digital wallet in one place.
Interestingly, both of these companies are based in Europe (as are many of the web3/fan engagement technologies gaining traction in sports).
Soccer has been a major testing ground for fan engagement technologies.
In our current digital world, data is the new oil.
While there’s been a major emphasis on privacy concerns, data is going to be just important in the metaverse (if not more important).
Data Vault Holdings is a metaverse data visualization, valuation, and monetization company.
The major difference between data in web2 and web3 — is that users are going to have the option to make money from their data in the future.
SimWin Sports is a virtual sports metaverse that fuels fantasy sports action with NFT players.
They have a star-studded group of team owners:
Web3, which is the infrastructure fueling the metaverse, will have simple games to help ease the adoption in to it.
Reality is already getting blurry and I expect it to get blurrier over the next decade (for better or worst).
The merger of physical and digital worlds is upon us, but still in the early stages.
This is partly because there isn’t just ONE metaverse — there are many.
Facebook, Roblox, and Microsoft each have their own unique vision of the metaverse.
Web2 has allowed other tech megacorporations such as Uber and TikTok to emerge and grow large, and they want to get in on the action as well.
If the last generation is about sharing, the next generation of social is going to be about participating.
Fitness and greater fan experiences will be the initial portal from physical to digital reality — most likely through “smart glasses”.
From there it will expand.
And one day…
Digital sports could overtake physical sports (quite the irony that would be).
Thanks for reading today!
The metaverse will rely heavily on VR + AR technologies, I plan on covering those in a future briefing.
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Have a great day!