Our CEO Alex Cowell gives his view on the future of digital collectible ticketing in sports and entertainment.
The early 2020s saw a speculation bubble even more frenzied than the dot-com boom of the late nineties. Until then most people had never heard of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), unique digital identifiers that record ownership of media. Then suddenly, hardly a day went by without NFT stories in the business press. It was in the digital art world that NFTs shot to fame in 2021, with the top five sales of the year generating an eye-watering $100m.
While a few made their fortunes trading art NFTs, scams were ripe and the value of most art NFTs has crashed. The burst bubble gave NFTs a bad name. Then along came ChatGPT to distract most people from web3 and NFTs.
Digital collectables are here to stay
Despite this rollercoaster of a ride, I foresee a big future for digital collectables in sport and entertainment ticketing. Contactless entry requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the transition of stadia to digital ticketing and the majority of tickets are now distributed via PDFs or mobile apps. Whilst this technology thwarts ticket touts, prevents lost tickets and saves countless trees, we regularly hear from fans and corporate guests alike that they miss being able to save physical tickets as mementos of their day.
Just the other day I was rifling through my cherished collection of match and concert ticket stubs from years gone by. It was a joyous few minutes. As a Brighton & Hove Albion supporter in 2023 however, I can only possess a mobile ticket which vanishes after each match. There’s nothing to collect. Nothing to remind me of those great victories. In this digital-first world, the industry must move quickly to harness digital collectables to preserve treasured memories.
Major sports have led the way
In the US, back in February 2022 all attendees of the Super Bowl LVI were sent a virtual commemorative ticket NFT featuring their unique seat number. This followed season-long trials at regional venues. Fan feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Fast forward to August 2023 and Formula 1 fans at the Dutch Grand Prix were able to claim a digital collectable directly from the Dutch GP app, featuring a beautiful ‘Trackside Treasure’ design.
Now it’s time for the industry to follow suit
These are great examples, but it’s high time the majority of clubs and venues raised the stakes in this digital era. We’re not just talking QR codes here; we’re talking about crafting wonderfully-designed digital artefacts that can be as cherished as that crumpled ticket stub you discovered in your old jeans pocket.
We’ve entered a brave new world of digital collectables, and it’s teeming with untapped potential. It’s not just about preserving memories; it’s about elevating them. So, to clubs, leagues, and venues lagging behind: Get your act together and ride this wave!
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