The AFL has announced the launch of a new NFT collection this week in the lead up to Saturday’s Grand Final match between Geelong and Sydney at the MCG.
Titled ‘AFL Mint’, the AFL’s NFT venture was launched in partnership with Web3 advisory firm Be Media. The first NFT drop, ‘Ripper Skippers’ debuted last Wednesday, featuring a series of moments from the most notable footy team captains. The NFT drop was undeniably a big hit among fans, with the entire collection selling out inside 12 hours.
The upcoming ‘The Decider’ collection, to be released this Wednesday, will feature a total of 61 clips from last year’s AFL grand final between the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs, and the 2021 AFLW final won by the Adelaide Crows.
Fans that choose to mint NFTs from The Decider collection have a 2% chance of unlocking a bonus ‘Genesis Ball’, which grants holders exclusive access to a host of footy-related rewards as well as AFL Mint merchandise and community perks.
The AFL Mint project bears a striking resemblance to the popular NBA Top Shots NFT model where fans mint some form of the sports leagues’ intellectual property (IP) in the form of a ‘memory’.
Notably, the AFL Mint project is built on the Flow network (FLOW), which since its inception in 2019 has grown to host a series of insanely popular NFT projects such as the NBA Top Shots collection, alongside other major sports collections, NBL Allday, UFC Strike and Ballerz.
The Flow network markets itself as the “foundation for a new generation of games, apps and the digital assets that power them”. At the time of writing FLOW is changing hands for roughly US$1.62, down an eye-watering 96% from its all-time-high of $42.40 on April 5 last year.
The AFL Mint project is definitely a step in the right direction in leveraging NFT technology as a useful tool in sports fan engagement. However, it’s worth noting that the move to mint IP as NFTs leaves room for further exploration in expanding the utility of the NFTs for true footy fans.
Taking NFTs beyond Intellectual Property
The AFL is not the first to experiment in new ways to engage sports fans. Earlier this year the Australian Open blurred the lines of sport, technology and art by dropping the unique ‘Art Ball’ collection where users gained access to 6,776 AO NFTs that were linked to live match data, and a live, virtual event hosted in Decentraland.
Each Art Ball NFT had its metadata linked to a 19cm x 19cm plot of each tennis court surface. If the winning shot from any of the matches during the Australian Open landed on that plot, the NFTs metadata would be updated in real-time to highlight that information. This would then grant the owner access to further utility like extra-premium limited-edition wearables, merchandise, and other event-related benefits in the future.
Another example of NFTs being used as a stepping stone to utility can be seen in the sports entertainment platform DAZN’s decision to use NFTs as tickets for live-streamed events in the Metaverse.
Boxing fans that purchased a Canelo NFT gained access to a livestream of the Canelo vs GGG match in the Decentraland metaverse while scoring two free months of a DAZN membership as well as going in the draw to win a Mutant Ape NFT and entry to a raffle for a VIP ticket of Canelo’s next fight.
Earlier this year, the AFL signed a deal with Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands to aid the sports organisation in fleshing out a NFT and metaverse strategy, with details to be released in the near future.