Insight Update

A game changer for sports apparel: The metaverse and team sports

The metaverse is still in its infancy, full of potential for sports teams and brands looking for innovative ways to engage with fans and customers, says Steve Mason, Commercial VP GM, Avery Dennison.

By taking a creative approach to supporter engagement, using Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), online content, and other immersive experiences, brands can take advantage of the rising metaverse and enrich their relationship with fans. To truly capitalise on the metaverse, however, they’ll have to rethink what they know about the relationship between fan and club as audiences begin to spend more time in the digital realm. This understanding of consumer wants has helped Avery Dennison, within our Embelex product line, begin to blaze a trail in the metaverse through smart embellishments.

The metaverse may well be the next big thing. Although there’s no single agreed definition of what it actually is, ‘the metaverse’ can be understood as online platforms hosting digital experiences where users, represented by digital avatars, can engage in activities like gaming, shopping and training. For many, it means the next iteration of the internet, except users will immerse themselves rather than simply scroll through a screen. An endless trove of online worlds offers an exciting opportunity for sports teams to interact with and offer fans products like digitally wearable sports kits.

A new playing field

Looking forward, the predicted growth of the metaverse is staggering, with McKinsey estimating that it could be worth $5 trillion by 2030. As emerging technologies like NFTs, blockchain, AR and VR continue to come to the fore, sports teams will have more tools to play with off the pitch to engage their supporters. Brands are already experimenting and finding creative ways to open up new revenue streams within the metaverse, and there will be more to come.

Moreover, it’s a natural home for sports fans looking to interact with their fellow supporters. Music concerts have already taken place in the metaverse, and soon, as the online domain continues to evolve, supporters could be getting live stadium experiences from the comfort of their own homes. There’s also plenty of opportunity for sports fans to indulge their competitive streaks in the metaverse, including crypto fantasy leagues underpinned by NFTs, and traditional, micro transaction-filled video games.

The breadth of opportunities for sports teams to engage fans is widening, and brands within the industry that keep up with these trends will be one step ahead in the race into a high-tech digital future.

Express your (virtual) self

Self-expression is at the heart of how people represent themselves in both the real world and metaverse. One in five Roblox gamers update their avatars daily, and the chance to flaunt their loyalty to their favourite teams and brands makes digital wearables particularly enticing for sports fans. Digital fashion is another emerging metaverse trend that sports teams are beginning to explore, adding to the immersive experience for fans who just can’t get enough of their clubs in the real world.

Digital merchandise is a glaring opportunity for sports clubs and offering fans NFT merchandise to personalise their digital avatars is a great place to start. Sports garments have long been used to create a sense of identity, and that’s been reflected in massive profits, with football teams like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Liverpool able to sell millions of replica shirts annually.

It’s big business that translates directly into the online domain, making the digital sportswear market rife with potential. There’s no reason that the shirts and scarfs that have traditionally electrified sports stadia can’t be rendered to a similar effect in the digital world.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Fifa recently announced the launch of FIFA+ Collect , which offers football fans the chance to purchase online collectables in the form of NFTs. Similarly, Nike has planted their own flag in the metaverse by partnering with Roblox. On the online gaming platform, players can visit ‘Nikeland’ , a virtual world modelled on the company’s real-world headquarters, where players can compete in games.

Avery Dennison’s Embelex smart embellishments are digital triggers built into clothing that can be scanned by smartphones to also give fans access to online content. Already, we’ve given the Premier League a taste by offering access to exclusive online prizes through scannable smart embellishments on their football shirts, and we’ve even now branched out into the US by partnering with the San Francisco 49ers.

A virtual world of potential

The metaverse opens up a world of opportunities for clubs and brands and those that are able to keep pace with the growth and evolution of the digital realm will develop a stronger, richer relationship with new and existing team sports fans. It’s worth reiterating that no one knows what final shape the metaverse will take, and it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for fan engagement, sports fashion and the metaverse. One thing is for sure, and that is the potential for those willing to take a walk through cyberspace is huge.

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