In a move that marks the next evolution of sporting partnerships with the NFTs and the blockchain, the Australian Open (AO) has expanded into the metaverse.
The growth links AO Art Ball Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to live match data, as a new technique of engaging fans.
As the tournament becomes the first Grand Slam to enter the metaspace, the launch gives global tennis followers the ability to own a piece of the AO, whilst public sale and minting commences on 13 January.
AO’s Chief Commercial Officer, Cedric Cornelis, commented: “The Australian Open prides itself on being one of the most innovative sports and entertainment events in the world, and we are delighted that through our expansion into the Metaverse and Decentraland, more fans can engage with our sport than ever before.
“We work closely with some of the world’s best developers to ensure we stay ahead of consumer trends and continue to expand into new sectors in ways never before seen in tennis.”
The project will see 6,776 AO Art Ball NFTs minted for viewers who can then purchase a piece of the AO 2022, as each one’s metadata will be linked to a 19cmx19cm plot of the courts’ surface.
Subsequently, if a winning shot lands on the selected plot, the NFT metadata will be updated in real-time to highlight the match information, whilst the tokens will include limited-edition wearables and AO merchandise.
In what has been described as a ‘never been seen before’ launch, the organisation looks to boost fan engagement in a way that they become more involved in the game, which has been made possible by official match and ball-tracking data from previous matches.
The organisation has collaborated with blockchain studio, Run it Wild, (as well as Rarer Things), to create the AO Art Ball NFT and AO Decentraland blurring art, sport and technology.
“The court plot tied to the NFT will be revealed when the balls are minted, meaning a buyer can’t choose a specific position on-court. Down the line shots and the ace down the T are where you’ll want to be,” added Run It Wild Director Adam De Cata.
Furthermore, when one of the 11 championship points lands on a plot, the NFT owner of that area can then receive the tennis ball in a handcrafted case.
The collection consists of ‘generative art’ which is an algorithmic combination of different colour schemes, patterns and textures.
With each containing a different look, the AO Art Balls also include over 160 NFTs from the AO Artist Series such as using designs from local and international artists which have been specifically created for the 2022 edition of the competition.
Those involved can, from home, ‘discover the precinct, complete challenges, view historic AO content and interact with players and other fans’, whilst the first launch will be in 3D virtual reality platform, Decentraland.
“We want the AO to be the world’s most accessible and inclusive sports and entertainment event,” Tennis Australia NFT and Metaverse Project Manager, Ridley Plummer, concluded.
“Taking the AO into the Metaverse is an important step to provide truly global access to our great event – we couldn’t have done that without the amazing collaborators we’ve had on the project, in particular the team from Vegas City, who have worked tirelessly on the build.”