As many of the top sporting leagues and organisations across the globe begin their first forays into the world of digital collectibles and, more specifically, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), athletes and teams are beginning to see increased engagement with fanbases.

In an interview with Insider Sport, Amrit Kumar, President and Chief Scientific Officer at Zilliqa, discussed the exponential growth of NFTs in the sporting space and how athletes, teams and leagues alike can monetise their offering.

“The idea behind NFT’s and monetising yourself is can you actually change and remove some of those middlemen and directly serve your own fan base,” he explained.

“For example, you could shoot a video, like a video to wish happy birthday to your favourite fan, and you can sell that NFT to your fan base directly. And that can happen because you have marketplaces which are developed on blockchain, on which you can just take your NFT, put that on sale and then anyone can buy that NFT from you.”

Kumar continued: “You could even do auctions for your NFTs as well so you don’t even need auction houses per se – you could literally go to a marketplace, build on a decentralised network and then auction off your NFT as well.

“This way, what you’re doing is you’re sort of bypassing auction houses, bypassing your managers, your marketing personalities and agents, and have a direct connection with your fan base, and that’s very powerful.”

Having collaborated with a handful of international stars, from Diego Costa to James Rodriguez, Kumar explained how Zilliqa ‘cuts out the middleman’ and allows athletes to have a direct connection with their fanbases.

“Very recently, we’ve been talking to a party in Portugal called Polaris, and they are managing quite a few well known football players,” he added. “The idea was that these football players will produce content and will shoot content for their fan base.

“You may have seen NBA Top Shot where highlights of certain matches were taken and they were sold as cards here. The idea was different where we wanted to actually shoot very specific videos for the fans so it was done in collaboration with the players themselves.

“If you go and buy these NTFs, you have access to certain things. For example, you would have a digital signature from the player and you could even win a signed jersey by the player – these are the sort of physical utility that also gets added to our digital NFTs.

“You can even win the possibility to have a one-on-one session with the player, so these are some of the benefits that we are giving to people who buy those NFTs. All of this is specially for these entities so it’s not something that can be recycled or rehashed.”

Zilliqa: The ‘powerful’ impact of NFTs in the sporting space