Blockchain is creating a smaller world, engaging fans and evolving technology

As technology rapidly reshapes the sports landscape, forward-thinking teams, leagues and startups are pioneering new ways to engage fans around the globe. From VIP experiences that money can’t buy to digital collectibles and participatory Web3 models, innovators are blending cutting-edge tech with core human desires for connection and inclusion.

To gain insights into the future of fan engagement, direct insights were gathered from top minds at Adidas, the Dallas Mavericks, RugbyDAO, Chiliz, FIFA, Asia Football Group and Fine Edge Sports.

Here’s what was learned:

The Evolving fan mindset

While tactics vary, an overarching theme emerges: Fans in today’s digital age crave feeling like an essential part of their favorite team or sport. They want access, agency and community more than transactional consumption. Simply put, fans no longer want to just watch — they want to belong.

“Things like the Golden Ticket are really a once-in-a-lifetime chance to unlock benefits and access to products people would usually need luck to get,” explains Bruna, Director of Adidas’ AdiClub for Latin America. Their tiered loyalty program provides top spenders with coveted rewards like ultra-limited sneaker drops and World Cup final tickets. Money alone can’t buy this level of insider status.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks keep finding fresh ways to expand value for distinct fan segments. From Spanish-language content channels to post-game collectible NFTs tied to tickets, they drill into what makes different audiences tick. “It’s something that’s so endemic to our brand,” says Joseph K. Luby, the Mavs’ Business Development Manager.

Empowering fans through Web3

Early Web3 projects are taking this fan-first ethos even further. RugbyDAO aims to transition enthusiasts from passive spectators to empowered co-creators who shape the sport’s future trajectory. As President Leanne Bats articulates, digital natives “don’t just want to accept the rugby they inherit, but actually shape the rugby they want to see.”

This kind of participatory ownership, enabled by tokenized governance models, gives the most passionate fans real skin in the game. And despite crypto winter slowdowns, blockchain organizations like ChiliZ remain all-in on the fan engagement upside. Having launched in 2018, they’ve had to stay agile to remain ahead of market waves.

Building global communities

Of course, building a genuine global community isn’t just about flashy tech. It’s using these tools to unite people through shared passions. Language and cultural barriers can be significant hurdles, though, especially in massively underserved regions.

Tapping into the Asian market, with just about 60% of the world’s population, requires thoughtful localization. Amiel Walia, ex Partnerships at FIFA and Arsenal, now VP of International Partnerships at Asia Football Group, sees technology as key to authentic fan connections in this context.

“With younger generations today, there’s no affiliation with a club…they’ll say ‘I’m a Messi fan, a Son fan, a Neymar fan,’” Walia notes. Transcending team allegiances, the Asian Football Group attracts a uniquely family-friendly audience united by a love for football stars. Tech helps translate that fervor.

Navigating challenges and forging partnerships

“Cricket’s fan base is largely in low-technology regions. This poses distinct challenges in tech adoption,” XFine Edge Sports’ CEO Dean Ahmad explains. “Trusted partnerships are paramount.” Ahmad’s previous ownership of Defi the Game had a major collaboration with which introduced memorabilia NFTs to fans who’ve never encountered cricket before, regardless of where they are.

Strategic allies build credibility.

The tokenization of everything

Ultimately, the name of the global fan engagement game is breaking down barriers to make everyone feel like an insider, regardless of location or spending power. Emerging platforms like NFT Workx epitomize this by helping fans tokenize their most meaningful personal sports assets. Now, anyone’s autographed jersey can become a tradable piece of history.

The new fan engagement playbook is part cutting-edge innovation and part old-fashioned community building. It’s less about hyping the next shiny object and more about leveraging technology holistically to strengthen the bonds that drew people to sports in the first place: emotional investment, storylines and shared identity.

If Web3 represents a fundamental re-envisioning of user agency through decentralization, then the sports world is the perfect testing ground. Fans already express quasi-ownership in teams and view club allegiance as core to their self-conception. Crypto fanaticism shares this zealous energy.

The path forward

Tokenizing everything from decision-making rights to physical memorabilia seems like a natural evolution to create fans for life, not just the season. The most proactive teams and leagues will build this groundswell from the bottom up, empowering supporters to co-create value rather than merely receiving it top-down.

So while the tactics deployed by AdiClub, the Mavericks, RugbyDAO and others vary widely, their underlying insight is the same: fans crave agency and emotional satisfaction. In an increasingly globalized, tech-driven age, money alone no longer buys loyalty. Currency must be married to the community.

The sports organizations that internalize this new reality will thrive. Because at the end of the day, even the most desirable collectibles simply serve the age-old yearning to belong. The groups that use innovation to deepen this timeless human need will win the future of fandom.

VentureBeat newsroom and editorial staff were not involved in the creation of this content. 

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