Men watching football on a television.

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The NFL had previously banned its 32 member clubs from engaging directly with a host of blockchain-based projects — it now seems to be reversing on that field of play.

Key points

  • The NFL posted a job on LinkedIn last week for a Senior Manager, Content Partnerships.
  • What makes it noteworthy is this single sentence under the job’s responsibilities: Identify opportunities in emerging technology sectors including, but not limited to, NFT and crypto projects and AR/VR strategy and development.
  • This demonstrates a complete reversal from its league-wide ban on crypto, NFTs, and the metaverse as recently as August 2021.

Could future Super Bowls be broadcast in the metaverse? Could you one day be immersed in the NFL reality documentary “Hard Knocks?” Might you be able to play a virtual game of catch with your favorite QB? Could developers create their own virtual fantasy leagues that run year round? Could you own an exclusive NFT from the historic NFL Films archives?

These are just some of the possibilities that can be envisioned in the virtual future for the NFL as it begins to explore the possibilities of the metaverse, crypto, cloud-based gaming, and NFTs.

Last week the NFL posted a job listing on LinkedIn for a Senior Manager, Content Partnership. While there doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about that position, two bullets listed under the “responsibilities” section caught my eye:

  • Act as marketing lead with strategic partners in key growth verticals (Gaming, NFTs, etc.)
  • Identify opportunities in emerging technology sectors including, but not limited to, NFT and crypto projects and AR/VR strategy and development

Not only is the NFL looking to expand its gaming presence — its current exclusive video simulation licensing agreement with Electronic Arts (EA) runs through 2026 — the language of that EA contract states that “arcade-style games, youth games, and casual/mobile games” are open to anyone. That could open the door for possible metaverse-based gaming partnerships with the likes of The Sandbox or Decentraland, especially since the job description specifically calls out augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) expertise.

Additionally, the NFL surely sees that there are hundreds of millions to be made selling official NFTs from its decades of archival NFL Films which are a dormant, underutilized asset for the league. Last year, the NBA Top Shots NFTs produced $589 million from October 2020 through May 2021. Such eye-popping residual revenue streams can’t be ignored. I wonder how much the NFL Films division generated for the league over the same time period?

And that’s just for starters when you consider possible point-of-view virtual experiences that might be offered to fans for a fee such as the NFL draft, training camps, game-day rituals for players, traveling with the team to “away games,” in-game experiences, post-game locker room, weekly practice, and more — all of which could be simulated or video streamed on blockchain.

The monetization possibilities for the league are limited only by its creativity and imagination.

A major reversal for the NFL

The potential for new revenue streams, as well as expanding the NFL into a truly global brand, are the most obvious reason for this 180-degree pivot from its former policy which banned all teams from engaging directly with any crypto-related projects. Last August, the NFL sent an email to all 32 of its clubs that included this section published in The Athletic:

“Clubs are prohibited from selling, or otherwise allowing within club controlled media, advertisements for specific cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, other cryptocurrency sales or any other media category as it relates to blockchain, digital asset or as blockchain company, except as outlined in this policy.”

It’s amazing to see what a few months and hundreds of millions in potential revenue can do to change perceptions. Neither of my emails to the NFL’s Corporate Communications or Human Resources groups requesting comment about the job posting or the NFL’s policy change received a response.

Regardless, now that we know the NFL is exploring the metaverse and NFTs, watching how its blockchain-based marketing strategy unfolds in the near future will likely be more fun and exciting than any preseason game.

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