Tennis Australia’s NFT pilot serves up success

While talk of cryptocurrency and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) is nothing new, it’s taken some time to gain momentum in a mainstream, ‘real world’ context.

The Australian Open is the first grand slam of the year, heralded as one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. In January 2022, Tennis Australia and Decentraland (a fully decentralised virtual world) launched the Australian Open Art Ball. Combining art, collectables and gamification, this initiative encouraged both collectors and the cryptocurrency-fluent to engage with the sport on a new level.

In a world-first, the Art Ball (an NFT) brings an art piece to life using real-time court data. Confused? So were we. Here’s how it works.

The centre court at Rod Laver Arena was divided into 6,776 ‘plots’, each with a unique identity assigned to it. Whenever a ball lands within the plot, data is written to the NFT with key stats such as who won the match, points awarded etc, ensuring each ball has its own unique value.

The AO Art Balls went on sale for 0.067 Ethereum (approximately AUD $299) on 13 January – with the entire collection selling out in just 3 minutes. Five months later, the balls connected to Ash Barty’s Women’s Singles Final victory and Rafael Nadal’s Men’s Singles victory are worth approximately AUD $825 and AUD $8,343, respectively. A custom designed AO Art Ball # 2693 has achieved the highest sale price to date of approximately AUD $18,693 – an impressive ROI.

The tournament also ventured into the metaverse with a virtual recreation of Melbourne Park’s tennis precinct in Decentraland – allowing people to use their devices or virtual reality headsets to experience the venue. This included guest appearances from tennis stars, access to AO merchandise and limited-edition wearables.

This is just the beginning of Tennis Australia’s venture into the NFT space, with plans underway to extend on this years’ success in 2023 with more digital / physical hybrid experiences. A compelling mix of well-loved brands, elite sport and metaverse experiences appear to be a winning combination in propelling NFTs into the mainstream.

Who else has cornered the NFT market?

Elsewhere, companies like Adidas, Nike and even McDonald’s and KFC are including NFTs and the metaverse in their marketing activities. According to Fortune Magazine, the market opportunity for the fashion industry alone in the metaverse is worth over USD $1 trillion in annual revenue.

Unsurprisingly, the gaming industry is another embracing NFTs. Players can acquire items inside the game and exchange them for currency in the real world. Governments and property developers worldwide are investigating the feasibility of the blockchain for property transactions and land titling records.

The blockchain also provides logistics businesses with invaluable data on where stock is at any given time. With so many applications and opportunities, especially in the marketing space – 2022 is shaping up to be a big year in the metaverse. While NFTs will always be subject to fickle crypto market trends for the forseeable future – demand doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon.

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