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Australian Open tennis to launch interactive NFT initiative

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The Australian Open (AO) is launching its own non-fungible token (NFT) collection, AO Art Ball, and creating an official AO space in the metaverse through Decentraland. Each NFT ball will have a relationship to real data on the tennis court.

A total of 6,776 NFTs of artistic looking tennis balls will be minted. The AO tennis court, Melbourne Park, will be abstractly divided into 6,776 sections so that each square represents one of the NFTs. Using the same line-calling technology used during the game, the holders of the section where the match winning shot lands will be selected to have data updated to their NFT, as well as winning footage, and limited edition wearables.

The minting and sale of the NFTs will go live on January 13 at a fixed price of .067 ETH, which as of today’s exchange rates, is around $255. Given the bubble in NFTs, secondary market sales could be at much higher prices. 

These are by no means affordable prices to the average consumer. NBA Top Shot, for example, makes a point of including low-priced packs for fans, and other initiatives, in an effort to make NFTs mainstream. The AO might get away with the higher public sale pricing because, in general, tennis fans are wealthier. In addition, tennis fans are 50% more crypto friendly than NFL and MLB fans, and a third more than NBA fans. Hence they might be more welcoming of the product.

Another reason why Art Ball might get away with higher prices is that the NFTs are bringing utility to tennis fans. The rhetoric of fan engagement and participation in a league is overused when it comes to sports NFTs, but Art Ball is making an effort to entertain fans through the initiative. 

In Decentraland, a digital Melbourne Park will be built, and fans will be able to watch historical highlights of the AO at any point in the day. 

The art for the NFTs will be selected from artistic submissions, giving lesser known and experienced artists a very straightforward opportunity to participate in a major project. In addition, the idea of dividing the court into subsections and giving prizes to holders of winning shot positions adds an exciting element of uncertainty.

“With this next wave of technology, global tennis fans will have the opportunity to be part of the 2022 Australian Open in a way never before available,” said Craig Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director. “The AO has always been seen as one of the most innovative sporting events in the world and this project is just another example of our team pushing the boundaries to provide our fans with better access and engagement with the AO.”

The AO is committed to offset the carbon emissions resulting from the primary sale. 

Meanwhile, the US Open also launched its own NFT initiative last year, but it did not have as many elements as AO’s. RECUR is bringing NFTs to sports colleges,  DraftKings will launch fantasy football NFTs with the NFL, and Dapper Labs will launch NFL moments as NFTs. 

Image Copyright: Tennis Australia