August 23rd, 2022
Disclaimer: FLYING FALCON HAS INVESTED IN THE BIG3 FIRE NFTs FOR TEAM TRILOGY. THIS STATEMENT IS INTENDED TO DISCLOSE ANY CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND SHOULD NOT BE MISCONSTRUED AS A RECOMMENDATION TO PURCHASE ANY TOKEN. THIS CONTENT IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND YOU SHOULD NOT MAKE DECISIONS BASED SOLELY ON IT. INVESTING IN ANY CRYPTO ASSET IS A MAJOR RISK. THIS IS NOT INVESTMENT OR FINANCIAL ADVICE
Fan Engaged Sports
Professional sports have long been a way for IRL communities to connect on a local level around fandom and social experiences. They bring individuals together and can act as a social and economic boost to cities that host teams. Sports serve as a form of entertainment and primarily an outlet to escape the reality of life’s demands.
The largest sport leagues have been around for over a century in some cases while continuing to evolve and expand. The National Football League (NFL) was founded in 1920, Major League Baseball (MLB) was founded in 1876, and the English Football League (EPL) was founded in 1888. These leagues are highly profitable, with the NFL generating $11B, the MLB generating $9.6B, and the Premier League generating $5.9B in revenues.
With these leagues continuing to grow and become larger, it becomes difficult for new leagues to compete. I believe new leagues that put fan engagement as a core value stand a better chance at remaining relevant over the coming years. It is extremely evident that fans want a voice among their teams. For example, the Green Bay Packers recently raised $65.8 for their “shares” that do not include dividends and cannot be resold, but do allow the purchasers to vote for the team’s board of directors. This is a way for the Green Bay Packers to connect with their fans and demonstrates the monetary value of such experience, but I believe new leagues can take this relationship much further.
As new leagues begin to come to market and look to obtain new fanbases, these leagues have the advantage of being more flexible and can take advantage of the technology stack being developed in Web3. These new leagues will likely look to establish themselves in an ever evolving sports industry by issuing access NFTs to introduce new stakeholders within their leagues, centered around fan engagement.
These new stakeholders, through ownership of NFTs, may look like a blend of owner and super fan. Leagues should provide NFTs to their audience as a way to access VIP fan experiences, but also as a way to vote on team decisions, receive certain intellectual property rights associated with the team, and share in team profits (with regulatory approval). Start-up leagues can sell NFTs as an initial source of start-up revenue, and can also give away NFTs to their most loyal and engaged fans to help bootstrap engagement. Importantly, these NFTs can serve as a way for leagues to better connect with internet native communities that may not have an IRL location though still desire for shared fandom. I believe the whitespace of leveraging Web3 is extremely large and am excited to see what new leagues will implement.
Two leagues I have been following closely here are the Big3 and Fan Controlled Football. I should also note there are teams within leagues, such as Crawley Town through WAGMI and many top tier soccer teams through Socios leveraging parts of the Web3 stack, though I believe the potential is larger within dedicated leagues. This paper focuses on the Big3, for which I recently purchased two Trilogy Fire NFTs and attended the Championship game.
The Big3, which was founded in 2017 by Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz, is a league mixed with retired NBA players, young talent, and international players. The league consists of 3 on 3 basketball, which debuted as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Olympics. The league launched with 8 teams and is now up to 12 teams. Teams are “barnstorming” and do not represent any specific city or geographic location. The current age requirement is 22, what used to be 27 prior to 2019.
The first team to 50 points wins the game (must win by 2 points). Halftime begins when the first team reaches 25 points. Rules are similar to traditional FIBA three-on-three, though there are some differences to add more entertainment value for fans. For example, there is a 4 point shot from three circles on the court all 30 feet away from the basket. Further, each team can challenge one foul per half of what is called “bring the fire”. The challenge results in a game of “one-on-one” with the winning team winning the call. Overall, the Big3 is aiming to provide an extra level of competitiveness, physicality, trash talking and gamification to enhance the overall fan experience, while also providing the right culture, support, and dedication to the players participating in the league.
The Big3 in its short five years has seen success. The league consists of an eight-week regular season from late June through mid August. The four teams with the best record at the end of season qualify for the semifinals. As of 2022, the league is shown on CBS, DAZN (global sports platform) and Vyre Network.
In 2021, the Big3 averaged 451,000 viewers on CBS across the 10 week campaign, compared to 276,000 viewers for the MLS across their 31 regular season games. This does not include streaming viewerships, which would increase both the Big3 and MLS numbers substantially.
While the data is not yet fully released, the league has shared some information on the 2022 season. On July 14th, during Week 4’s games, the Big3 reached over 625,000 U.S. viewers on CBS, a 3 year high for the Big3. When including the Big3 YouTube channel, Vyre Network and DAZN, they reached millions of viewers across 100 countries.
Overall, I believe the sport’s focus on offering a quick, engaging and fast paced game bodes well for their future. Additionally, their recent NFT sale should allow them to turbo charge their growth through providing fans with a more meaningful level of engagement and feeling of ownership.
For the 2022 season, the Big3 chose to sell NFTs that would offer ownership-like value for fans. They came in two tiers, Fire and Gold. Fire NFTs are the more premier tier with 25 total per team and initially sold for a price 9.3 ETH on June 10th.
All the NFTs include certain voting rights towards team actions, gameday experiences, and VIP tickets to all games. The Fire NFTs also include certain intellectual property and licensing rights, voting on team CEO/President/Vice President, reserved owner suites/backstage access, free hotels for championship weekend, pre-draft parties, and the potential to earn 1.6% of the proceeds (per NFT) should the team be sold (subject to investor regulation), among other perks. The Fire NFT essentially takes certain aspects of being a super fan and owner and combines them into a transferable digital piece of ownership. It is creating a new stakeholder.
I came together with other members of the Axie community to purchase majority ownership of the Fire NFTs associated with team Trilogy. Trilogy had just made the playoffs and was, in my opinion, the most likely contender for the 2022 championship. Trilogy had won two championships prior (2017 & 2021), one of which (2021) came when legendary coach Stephen Jackson joined the team as head coach. This was a big moment for the Axie community. It allowed an otherwise digitally native hub to have an IRL sport team to rally behind with shared fandom. As one of the perks, the Axie Community (through majority Fire NFT ownership) was able to place one of the most rare Axie’s as a badge on the team jersey.
This relationship is extremely beneficial for the Big3 as well. Not only are they able to raise capital, but they are able to tap into an internet native community to generate word of mouth marketing for their league. They are also able to more readily gain fans who now feel a connection with a team they otherwise may not have. It essentially allows the league to better gain fandom from digital first communities that are not necessarily local to an IRL community, a trend I believe is growing.
The Big3 can also bootstrap growth in the future by giving away additional tiered NFTs. For example, they can have scratch-offs with QR codes at games with the potential to win an NFT immediately redeemed to your wallet. They can give away NFTs to some of their more loyal fans through contests and competitions. Some might argue VIP ticketing and ownership-like experience can be given away without NFTs. Sure, it’s possible, but the NFTs offer a more digitally native experience and enables the consumer to more readily transfer the asset when it’s no longer of use to them or if someone values it more for a higher price.
My Experience at the Big3 Championship
We (Team Trilogy) managed to win the semi-final playoff game which provided me with an all inclusive championship experience this past weekend. Below is a recap of my experience as a team Trilogy Fire NFT holder.
Put simply, this was one of my best sporting experiences thanks to the access and utility associated with my Fire NFT. Upon the first moments of arriving on Sunday in Atlanta, I was treated like an owner with my credentials waiting for me at the ticket office. These credentials were the keys to the kingdom inside the arena. It opened up access to everything, it felt like there was nowhere I couldn’t go. While I arrived the morning of gameday, NFT owners were also rewarded two complimentary nights at the designated Championship hotel, a great way to start the weekend.
The Championship day consisted of several events that spanned over 4 hours of entertainment for Big3 fans around the world. The day began with a Celebrity Game, which then transitioned into the Big3 All-Star Game, which then led into the main event Championship game.
The celebrity game was a 3v3 basketball game coached by ex NBA superstar Clyde Drexler and Big3 league founder Ice Cube. It was a great experience to watch celebrities like Rob Gronkowski (4x Superbowl Champion), Nelly (American hip/hop artist), Crissa Jackson (former Globetroter) and NLE Choppa (Recording Artist) ball out. It was clear, however, that Gronk needs to work on his basketball mobility and layups and I planned on letting him know after the game through my access to the tunnel. Let me tell you though, Gronk is even bigger in person so having the nerve to tell him to work on his layups just turned into a “Good game Gronk”.
Before the start of the All-Star Game, to my surprise, rapper B.O.B came on stage to perform. The atmosphere of the stadium transitioned to belting out and rapping some of B.O.B’s most popular tracks “Nothin On You” and “Airplanes”. As a spectator, you essentially witnessed a mini-concert, which continued when NLE came off a hot debut in the Celebrity game and performed at halftime during the Championship game. Big3’s ability to attract top tier entertainment talent like these performers shows that their mission is not solely on growing the game of basketball, but it’s also on enhancing the experience as a fan attending IRL.
I eventually settled into my court-side seats for the All-Star Game. In addition to the plethora of talent on the court, the game consisted of some serious trash talking and an element of physicality that is often not seen in All-Star games. Team Doc was coached by Julius Irving “Dr. J” who squared off against Team ICE led by George Gervin “The Iceman”. It was a great experience getting to watch two legends go head to head coaching up and close.
It was finally time for the main event, the Championship Game. My credentials pretty much gave me access to the entire arena, which created a difficult decision on where to watch the game. Did I want to stay courtside behind the scores table or did I want to have the birds eye view and watch from the Owners Suite where there was an open bar and buffet? This was not an easy decision, so naturally I did both. I initially went with the Owners Suite where I drank a cold beer to take the edge off as Trilogy and Power battled back and forth, point for point.
At halftime, I went back to my courtside seats. Second half was where we started to pull ahead, led by Earl Clark and Isaiah Briscoe. I cheered us on from up close, watching the lead continue to expand. We ended up winning 51 to 35, a complete stomping.
Immediately after the conclusion of the game, I was welcomed onto the court and celebrated with other NFT owners and the players. From there, I watched the trophy ceremony and the speeches addressing the team, Big3, ICE Cube and all the fans that joined. After the on-court ceremony, the team celebrated in the locker room and got ready for the press conference. I joined the players and continued celebrating in the locker-room, a remarkable experience full of champagne showers.
In all, by experiencing the event first-hand, it was clear that the league views the Fire NFT holders as top tier stakeholders. It was a memorable experience that I hope to share with the Axie Community and fans around the world for years to come. I believe the Big3 will continue to push the boundaries on utilizing Web3 tools to form a more symbiotic relationship between players, owners and fans. I’m excited for the years to come.