The ABCs of New Partnerships Between Blockchain Tech, Sports and Entertainment

The ABCs of New Partnerships Between Blockchain Tech, Sports and Entertainment

School may be out for summer, but that’s no reason the latest round of news regarding ties between tech companies and sports and entertainment properties shouldn’t be put to the test.

So let’s assign grades to three deals, each of which is noteworthy for a different reason.

Grade A: St. Louis Blues and Credenza

The NHL club and its new blockchain partner are the first to put distributed database technology to work powering a team’s fan engagement program.

The 127,000 current members of the Bluenatics program will be able to opt in to receive a universal ID through an enhanced Bluenatics Passport. As part of a fan’s mobile wallet in the team’s app, all activity—including ticketing, retail, location and content interaction data—will be centralized and tracked, allowing the Blues to provide real-time discounts and other highly targeted offers to fans at the Enterprise Center arena, online and at partner locations.

In addition, according the official announcement, “The enhanced Bluenatics experience will take gamification to another level, enabling fans to be rewarded through the actions they already take as die-hard fans of the Blues and the completion of unique activations from team sponsors.”

The agreement gets high marks for going beyond using blockchain tech for NFTs and ticketing and helping to unlock the potential of fan data to power personalized benefits and experiences and drive incremental revenue for rights holders. Eventually, if the program proves effective, it could be expanded to team sponsors and other partners.

Grade B: Tribeca Film Festival and OKX

Crypto company OKX is taking a different path from others in the beleaguered sector by a) spending marketing dollars at all and b) choosing to partner with an entertainment property versus a sports rights holder.

To say 2023 has been a down year for the category is of course an understatement. According to advertising intelligence company Vivvix, spending on media by “digital currency exchanges and services”—which includes crypto companies—totaled $7.7 million in the first quarter of the year compared to $115.3 million during the same period a year earlier.

So OKX—which dropped a planned Super Bowl ad in February in the wake of FTX’s collapse—gets some points for merely bucking the trend and seeking to grow its brand while competitors shrink into the corners. (It’s worth noting here that OKX’s crypto exchange business does not operate in the U.S.)

But it also earns credit for adding the film festival and its audience to a sponsorship portfolio that includes English Premier League club Manchester City and the McLaren Formula 1 team. The association with a cultural organization and the perception that such partnerships are less commercial in nature than sports deals could provide the positive halo that the crypto industry desperately needs.

A recent Digiday article summarized the brand’s contrarian strategy behind the partnership this way: “Haider Rafique, OKX’s chief marketing officer, sees Tribeca as a way to go beyond moviegoers and influence public policy beyond Capitol Hill. ‘You can do two types of lobbying…You can do lobbying in Washington, D.C., or you can do lobbying in Hollywood. And I think we kind of want to try lobbying in Hollywood.’”

The company’s activations include an NFT pass for festival attendees and an NFT Lab promotion that allows users to download the OKX wallet and use a generative AI platform to create their own token through a process known as “lazy minting,” which does not mint the NFT on the blockchain until the creator has identified a buyer for it.

Grade I (Incomplete): Majesticks GC and OKX

In a deal revealed by Sports Illustrated yesterday, OKX became the first global sponsor of the LIV Golf team captained by Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood.

For the vast majority of observers, the most interesting aspect of the deal is that it may be the strongest indication yet that LIV Golf is sticking around, at least through 2024, as that is when the sponsorship term ends.

For OKX, it is a deal filled with pros and cons. It’s element of surprise is certainly helping the brand capture attention in the short-term, as the uncertainty surrounding LIV Golf’s future following the landmark agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had presumably suppressed most brands’ interest in sponsorship of a property in limbo.

But assuming that LIV Golf is around for at least the next 18 months, the big question for OKX is will it attract enough fan interest and support during that time to make the sponsorship investment worth it? If yes, then this could be worthy of an A grade. If not, it could be an F. For now, it’s definitely an incomplete.

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