Blockchain sports platform Socios.com signed its first U.S.-based sports team partnership with the New Jersey Devils, a National Hockey League (NHL) team. The deal will focus on marketing Socios.com through advertising at Devils games and will explore fan-engagement opportunities through blockchain. However, there are no current plans for a Devils fan token.
In March, Socios.com announced it would invest a minimum of $50 million to target partnerships with the five leading American professional sports leagues. The group also said it would open headquarters in New York. The development with the New Jersey Devils is the first milestone in a much broader plan to penetrate the American sports market.
But does the lack of a Devils fan token point to potential challenges in the United States? The market positioning of Socios.com is quite different from other blockchain-based sports platforms which fit into the collectibles world.
Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot, Tom Brady’s Autograph platform, and other digital collectible initiatives have made NFTs increasingly popular in American sports. However, other uses of blockchain in fan engagement are not yet as mainstream.
Socios.com’s role with its partnerships has often been to provide a platform to produce and commercialize fan tokens. These tokens are very different from other sports collectibles. They are hybrid reward tokens that can be exchanged for physical prizes and allow for limited participation of fans in the team’s decisions. Prices of Fan Tokens are expected to be volatile and vary according to the team’s performance. In this sense, the service can be perceived similarly to an investment or even an alternative to conventional sports betting.
However, with the New Jersey Devils, there are no current plans to promote Fan Tokens. We’d speculate that one reason might be the potential for the tokens to be seen as an investment tool. This could attract the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), something most teams would try to avoid. It poses an additional challenge for Socios in entering the U.S. sports market since their key differentiating factor has been the offer of Fan Tokens as opposed to sports collectibles.
No specific blockchain initiatives have yet been mentioned by either group. However, there are many opportunities to explore fan engagement through blockchain. One key factor of blockchain success in the sports industry is that it incentivizes fan loyalty.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils are the 26th sporting organization to join the Socios.com network, following in the footsteps of top-of-the-table teams such as Manchester City and AC Milan. The company has been making a significant effort to market itself. It makes a point to include marketing clauses in partnerships and ensure its logo is present in the teams’ arenas during broadcasted games or other events. It also has a partnership with Lagardére Sports Marketing.