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Web 3 Doesn’t Require a Leap of Faith

Each time the consensus tips towards a new version of the web, we’re all confronted with questions about how to adapt. How will I survive in this new, mysterious world? Will everything change? 

Web 3 certainly spawns questions about new digital possibilities, but there is a silver lining: fans don’t really change. While fans may come to expect certain kinds of experiences from their sports of choice, the reason that most engage is to pursue promised value and not as a venture into an enlightened new techno-culture. 

At its core, the promise of Web 3 is a new concept of virtual ownership made possible by blockchain technology. The decentralized nature of blockchain, combined with smart contracts, allows digital “items” to be fully owned and traded independently of any sort of governing body. 

The notion of blockchain does present a potentially unique vision of the future, but we need not redefine the underlying value exchanges to leverage it. In 2004, the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field inked a deal with Lexus to create the “Lexus Lot,” a special parking lot exclusive to fans driving a Lexus vehicle. In this case, physical ownership netted the fan greater value. It promised monetary value, offsetting the cost of a paid parking reservation, it promised the reduced hassle associated with parking, and viscerally it provided badge value to Lexus owners who would now feel like part of an exclusive club. 

What changes about the experience if the parking in the Lexus Lot required digital ownership? Recently, DraftKings introduced NFT collectibles featuring the rising tennis star Coco Gauff. Fans who purchase multiple of these digital trading cards would become eligible to receive tickets to see her play live. The fact that the Coco Gauff tradeables are NFTs is somewhat irrelevant to the value exchange. Much like the Lexus Lot, fans of Coco Gauff who acquire these cards are rewarded with monetary value of the related tickets and the badge value associated with having memorabilia. 

Still in the realm of digital art, Crypto.com in partnership with Formula 1 Grand Prix in Miami, collected speed and sound data from vehicles during the race and converted that data into unique works of art.

Crypto.com as a Web 3 innovator took an interesting but not altogether surprising approach to the F1 experience. Like Lexus, they leaned into visceral value exchanges. Firstly, a custom piece of art commemorating a race registers high on the nostalgia scale. Secondly, Crypto.com limited the total number of these digital artifacts to 57, both motivating buyers through scarcity and ensuring their purchases retain or even grow in value over time.

The value exchanges inherent to Web 3 need not be direct swaps from digital to physical space. As an example, Sorare combines NFTs with fantasy sports gaming. Instead of selecting your team from a list, the game asks you to first acquire them as NFTs.  

Sorare limits the amount and quality of player cards that are available within a given timeframe, while enabling players to trade amongst themselves like any physical collectible card game. However, unlike their physical counterparts, the value of each NFT card may increase or decrease based on their performance in the game, adding a brand new dimension to fantasy sports.

Stepping into the universe of Web 3 need not be daunting. These examples and many more like them aren’t leaping head first into fully virtual decentralized worlds and instead are leaning on tried and true product design techniques with only a light dusting of blockchain technology. If anything, they are a rallying cry to start small and to focus on delivering value to your fans.