The 5 Most Successful Sports Crypto Projects of All Time
Sports and cryptocurrency are a match made in marketing heaven. Sports and their attendant franchises have long enjoyed mainstream popularity in cultures the world over, and they’ve monetized that popularity with plenty of multifaceted merchandising. Crypto, on the other hand, grants the venerable institution of sports access to new revenue streams that are particularly attractive to younger, more tech-savvy fans. The complementary nature of these two sectors makes it only natural that they should find success by their powers combined. From the dozens of sports crypto projects on the market, we’ve picked out five of the most successful to highlight how they hit their impressive results and what lessons you can take to inform your own crypto play.
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Want to learn more about the intersection of sports and blockchain, or maybe you're ready to turn this technology to your advantage? Read our guide, How to Win With Blockchain Technology in Sports.
Paris Saint-Germain Fan Token
French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain was a relatively early adopter of crypto technology, partnering with the loyalty platform Socios to mint the PSG Fan Token ($PSG) on the Chiliz blockchain in the first quarter of 2021. Fans could purchase these tokens directly from PSG, and once they did, they earned the ability to vote in key decisions regarding the club. For example, when the team decided to change the roof ridge visual at its home stadium of Parc des Princes, PSG token holders got to vote on the proposed designs. The more tokens a fan held, the more voting power they could claim, which encouraged deep engagement with both the currency and the franchise. Tokens also provide holders the chance to meet and interview players, receive additional NFT rewards, and more.
The PSG token reached a secondary sales volume of $15 billion in 2022, driven in part by the club’s real-world success (acquiring legendary player Lionel Messi boosted token sales by 343% from March 2021’s $539 million to $2.39 billion the following month). In August 2021, Socios said it had paid its partnered clubs around $180 million, and that total has surely risen since.
PSG’s token shows that providing fans with loyalty bonuses through cryptocurrency can drive engagement with both the token and the franchise itself. Bonuses give the coin utility beyond being a collector’s item, which can help shield it from some of the value fluctuations that can affect other cryptocurrencies.
NBA Top Shot
The world of crypto expands beyond the narrow confines of digital currency with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). By tying themselves to the same blockchain used by cryptocurrencies, these digital assets can have their authenticity, provenance, and ownership secured and easily accessed. They may take different shapes, but the underlying technology remains the same, and as the most common implementation of crypto tech in sports, their appeal to fans has been soundly proven in the last few years.
The NBA made waves in 2019 when it became one of the first major American sports leagues to build its own series of NFTs. It partnered with Dapper Labs to create NBA Top Shot on the Flow blockchain. These unique digital collectibles take cues from traditional sports trading cards but build on the concept by allowing collectors to own iconic plays, called Moments, from throughout the sport’s history.
Top Shot became an instant success. By the end of 2021, the platform sported more than 1.1 million registered users trading a volume of NFTs worth around $800 million. One of the priciest transactions in the platform’s history saw a token representing a Lebron James dunk sell for $387,600 in 2021. As of May 2022, Top Shot has brought in over $1 billion in sales.
Top Shot’s takeoff can teach us two crucial things about the sports-NFT-crypto matrix. First, it shows the value of creativity in what one mints as an NFT. Top Shot could have easily kept things simple and produced digital trading cards. Instead, it changed the nature of what a fan could own, from a representation of a player’s achievements to a special moment in NBA history. That’s a powerful shift. It deepens fans’ relationships with the game while still allowing the NFTs to resemble traditional collectibles closely enough that users can wrap their heads around the concept. That’s the other lesson to be learned here: Some sense of the old must remain in the new. Cryptocurrency grows more mainstream by the day, but sports fans are still easing their ways in — don’t drop them in the deep end all at once.
NFL All Day
The NFL decided to follow the NBA’s lead two years later, partnering with Dapper Labs to build its own Moments NFT on the Flow blockchain in August 2022. The football league followed the exact same formula as its basketball-focused brethren, and although it didn’t hit the same staggering heights as Top Shot, it has performed well despite being second to the scene by a significant margin. For one, individual NFTs in NFL All Day have a much higher average sale price — two and a half times that of Top Shot — and it managed to outsell Top Shot for the month of September 2022.
All Day’s case shows the value of partnering with an established brand to create a product with proven quality. Fans knew they could trust Dapper to make an exciting collectible, and the NFL knew it could trust Dapper to build a solid platform, because it had proven itself with Top Shot. Your brand doesn’t need to build its own sports crypto projects from the ground up; it can trust a veteran player in the space to do the heavy lifting.
If that idea appeals to you, consider booking a demo with us at Dibbs. We’re experts in the Web3 space, and we can help you determine the right play for your brand.
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Golden State Warriors NFTs
The Golden State Warriors was the first team in the NBA to mint its own NFTs. That first drop, released in April 2021, included limited edition NFT recreations of the team’s six championship rings and ticket stubs from notable historical wins. A portion of the sales from the purely digital collectibles went to charity. The team returned to the NFT zone with a second drop the following April, when it minted 3,000 reactive NFTs from 12 designs of varying rarity. The more wins the Warriors accrued in the playoffs, the more benefits those holding the NFTs would receive, with possible bonuses including playoff game tickets, signed memorabilia, more NFTs, and even a ride on the championship float.
The first round of NFTs set the record for the all-time highest sports NFT sale at $871,591.27, and the collection as a total sold out for a total of $2 million in initial sales. Round two sold the individual items in the collection for $500 each, and although the Warriors did not release data around the collection’s performance as a whole, Warriors president Brandon Schneider said the drop was “really well received” by Warriors fans.
The first round of NFTs the Warriors released proves that crypto can be a powerful tool for charity work, allowing organizations to capitalize on a new and exciting investment opportunity for fans while directing some of those funds to charitable causes, building the brand’s public image. The team’s second swing at NFT success shows that NFT drops can be a repeatable source of revenue, but that some level of innovation around the product can make it even more attractive to fans. Reactive NFTs had never been done before in sports, and fans responded to that excitement.
Of course, one final takeaway from the Warriors’ time in the crypto space is more cautionary. The Warriors created these NFTs in collaboration with its partner, the crypto exchange FTX. FTX has since experienced a liquidity crisis and shut down its marketplace, erasing the value of everything on its platform. Their cautionary tale emphasizes the necessity of due diligence (or DD –– conducting your own research on a cryptocurrency, stock, or other asset before investing) in all sports crypto projects.
Genesis Curry Flow
In December 2021 — a few short months after the Warriors made its first foray into cryptocurrency — star player Stephen Curry announced his own blockchain project: the Genesis Curry Flow collection. Although he isn’t the only athlete with a crypto project, his remains unique. He and Under Armour minted 2,974 digital NFT pairs of the shoes Curry wore to break the record for most three-point shots made by a single player. The shoes were minted on the Polygon blockchain and were priced at the Ethereum equivalent of $333 each, but they were more than just digital collectibles. Thanks to a partnership with three prominent metaverse platforms, owners of the NFTs could wear the sneakers in Decentraland, the Sandbox, and Gala Games. Owners also received an additional Birthday Cake NFT on Curry’s 34th birthday, and those who owned Genesis Curry Flow shoes with numbers corresponding to three-pointers Curry scored on his birthday received an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco for a meet and greet with the man himself.
The collection sold out, pulling in a total of close to $1 million. Curry and company donated 100% of the net revenue on each shoe (or 80% of the retail purchase price) to charity organizations that provide access to sports.
Curry’s project integrates several of the successful elements seen in other NFT projects — a charity angle and additional follow-up drops, for example — but it pushes the game forward in one way more than any other: integration with the metaverse. Web3 proponents have long argued that NFTs could allow users to bring their virtual items from one game to another, universalizing these virtual goods across platforms. The Genesis Flow collection is the first time that dream has been made a reality in a sports crypto project. That incentivized users already on those metaverse platforms to buy the shoes, but it also gave NFT collectors a reason to take another step into the Web3 ecosystem and start building their stake in the metaverse.
If you’re looking to step into Web3 yourself, Dibbs has you covered. Our blockchain expertise and NFT mastery make it easy to build a crypto project as exciting for fans as it is profitable for your brand. Get in touch and we’ll show you how.