HEIR Adds Anthony Edwards as Latest Athlete to Provide Membership Experience on NFT Platform

By Tom Friend

HEIR, the emerging digital fan token platform co-founded by Michael Jordan’s son Jeffrey, has secured another NBA player as a member-ambassador. 

Anthony “Ant-Man’’ Edwards, the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, joins Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls and Bennedict Mathurin of the Indiana Pacers as an HEIR partner. Starting Thursday of this week, fans can buy early memberships to witness Edwards’ autumn journey on HEIR. Not only will members have direct access to Edwards’ Web3 activities, they can receive autographed memorabilia and potentially attend Edwards’ August 18 membership event in Atlanta, where they can witness one of his live off-season workouts. 

Members could also have the chance to participate in “digital content co-creation’’ with Edwards while in Atlanta. HEIR initially launched last December after Jordan and his son received $10 million in seed funding. The company, whose mission is to jump the Web2 to Web3 gap by transforming sports fans into owners, has previously released Lonzo Ball NFTs in collaboration with streetwear designer Don C and Web3 lifestyle developers, Okay Bears. 

John McEnroe, Will Ferrell to Host Live Audio Stream on Mixhalo During LAFC-Charlotte FC

By Andrew Cohen

Tennis legend John McEnroe and actor Will Ferrell will host a live audio stream on Mixhalo during LAFC’s home match against Charlotte FC on Aug. 13. The commentary will be exclusively available to fans attending the match at LAFC’s Bank of California Stadium who download the free Mixhalo app to listen through their phone or connected headphones.

McEnroe and Ferrell, who became an LAFC co-owner in 2016, will provide commentary of the soccer match on Mixhalo alongside Fox LA broadcaster Mark Rogondino. Mixhalo is a real-time audio platform intended to be used by fans when they attend live events, and it has previously hosted in-venue audio activations with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

Mixhalo’s mobile app will additionally stream separate audio feeds during the Aug. 13 match hosted by LAFC play-by-play commentators Max Bretos (English language) and Armando Aguayo (Spanish language). Fortress Investment Group led Mixhalo’s $24 million Series B funding round last year.

Sodexo Live! Launches Accelerator Program to Find Startups That Address Personalizing Fan Experience, Venues

By Andrew Cohen

Sodexo Live!, a hospitality and concessions partner for sports and entertainment venues, has launched a new North America Innovation Lab to work with startups developing products to improve venue operations and the fan experience at live events. Startups can apply for Sodexo Live!’s new North American accelerator program through Sept. 12. The program is being held in partnership with global innovation specialist L Marks.

The accelerator is looking for startups whose solutions address themes such as:

  • Recruiting employee talent
  • Adding AR and VR fan experiences to venues
  • Sustainability
  • Frictionless fan entry
  • Point-of-sale touchpoints
  • Predictive analytics for optimizing venue space and internal operations

Selected startups will work with mentors over a ten-week program to trial their products in a live event environment.

Sodexo Live! Recently signed a deal through 2026 to become the hospitality partner for the French Open at Roland Garros. The company handles hospitality, food and beverage services for U.S. venues such as Nashville Superspeedway, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, and T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Earlier this MLB season, Sodexo Live! opened an Amazon Just Walk Out store at T-Mobile Park for fans during Mariners games.

Among Sodexo Live!’s competitors in the venue hospitality space is Levy, which launched its DBK Studio innovation arm earlier this year that operates similarly to Sodexo’s new accelerator. DBK Studio partners with technology startups to deploy new services across Levy’s 250 venues, such as adding Mantis XR’s QR codes to the St. Louis Blues’ arena to power a new online virtual locker room merchandise shopping platform for fans.

Levy’s DBK Studio also worked with drone delivery startup Valqari to add drone deliveries for fans ordering food at Purdue University’s baseball field. American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks, collaborated with DBK Studio to debut two autonomous checkout-free food and beverage stores in April that are powered by Standard AI’s computer vision cameras.

Another hospitality and concessionaire provider to sports venues alongside Sodexo Live! and Levy is Aramark, which has partnered with TendedBar to add its facial recognition-powered cocktail ordering machine to Empower Field at Mile High, the home of the Denver Broncos. Aramark also debuted mobile robot food delivery for fans at Capital One Arena during NHL playoff games in May through its partnership with delivery robot startup Tortoise.

Pac-12, Tempus Ex Machina to Develop Video-Sharing Tool for Student-Athletes to Monetize Game Highlights

By Joe Lemire

The Pac-12 Conference has announced a new video-sharing tool to help its student-athletes monetize their game highlights on social media. This is the first commercial product to be developed in the conference’s collaboration with Tempus Ex Machina and will be amplified through a partnership between Twitter and Opendorse to secure name, image, likeness compensation for athletes through the Opendorse NIL marketplace.

Tempus Ex, which partnered with the Pac-12 in March, will leverage FusionFeed—its low-latency data and video feed—to make personalized game highlights available immediately after each game. The product is rolling out first to Pac-12 athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball, with the other sports to follow. Tempus Ex is able to provide every available angle of every play and automate the process to deliver relevant clips to each player, who can opt into the program. Social media companies can then create monetization programs that build on these videos.

The Pac-12 was the first NCAA conference to make game highlights available to student-athletes for NIL opportunities. Tempus Ex completed a Series B round last September and has also partnered with the NFL. Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is among its investors and board members.

Twitter became the first social media platform to disclose its plans for helping college athletes monetize their name, image and likeness when it struck its agreement with Opendorse in June 2021. A portion of the pre-roll advertising on the video clips shared by Pac-12 athletes on their personal Twitter accounts will go to the user.

NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk Acquires Football Team in SimWin Sports Metaverse, Joins Growing List of Celeb Owners

By Tom Friend

Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk will own a team this fall in the debut football season of SimWin Sports Metaverse, a new digital league that lets customers purchase player NFTs and use them in competition for potential cash earnings.

A metaverse-based combination of fantasy football, esports and sports betting, SimWin has accumulated a Who’s Who list of team owners. In addition to Faulk—whose team will be named the San Diego Battleships—franchises will also belong to Magic Johnson, Jerry Rice and Mike Singletary.

SimWin claims fans can collaborate with the team’s celebrity owners by “collecting, trading and managing virtual players.’’ Single-day and season-long fantasy competitions will also take place during the football season, as well as sports wagering.

The league’s CEO, David J. Ortiz, formerly led the development of EA Sports’ Madden franchise and is intent on having SimWin branch off to other sports such as basketball later in the fall.

Sportsbox AI Closes $5.5 Million Seed Round Led by EP Golf Ventures

By Joe Lemire

Sportsbox AI, which uses a single smartphone camera to generate 3D golf biomechanics analysis, has closed a $5.5 million seed round led by EP Golf Ventures, the investment vehicle created in collaboration by PGA of America and Elysian Park Ventures.

Joining the round were a female-led group of individual investors such as LPGA Tour players Michelle Wie West, Marina Alex and Mel Reid, broadcasters Amanda Balionis and Kira K. Dixon and Randi Zuckerberg, the CEO of her namesake media company. The CEO of Sportsbox AI is Jeehae Lee, a former LPGA Tour player who later became Wie West’s business manager and a Topgolf executive. Also participating in the seed round were famed golf coaches Sean Foley and David Leadbetter and David Blitzer, an owner of several pro sports teams.

The company’s first product is Sportsbox 3DGolf, which uses only slow-motion smartphone video to create motion capture data. Users can review the swing from six angles and receive datapoints on positions, angles and velocities. Within the app are tools for live remote coaching and personalized practice plans. Earlier this year, USOPC director of sport technology and innovation Phil Cheetham joined Sportsbox as its chief scientific officer. Sportsbox has partnered with Five Iron Golf to provide analysis at several locations of the indoor facility.

Oura Ring Compatible With Natural Cycles Birth Control App, Allowing Athletes to Track Body Temperature Trends

By Joe Lemire

Ōura Health, which makes a smart ring that monitors wellness, has partnered with Natural Cycles, the first FDA-approved birth control app. 

Especially since releasing its Gen 3 hardware, Oura has prioritized the addition of new health monitoring features for female users, including a period prediction tool. Natural Cycles used researched-backed fertility indicators to help determine fertile windows but previously relied on user-inputted oral temperatures. Oura can now import distal body temperature and heart rate data automatically from its device, onto which Natural Cycles applies its algorithms.

Oura, which recently partnered with Strava for data integration, has also gone live with some promised features in the past few months. Wearers of the Gen 3 ring now have access to average blood oxygen, breathing regularity and workout heart rate data. Among its sports partners are the NBA and NBPANASCAR and the World Surf League.

Oxford City FC to Accept Bitcoin as Payment for Tickets, Concessions

By Tom Friend

Oxford City F.C., a semipro team in the sixth tier of England soccer, is now the first National League franchise to allow fans to make matchday payments using bitcoin.

In collaboration with the Isle of Man company CoinCorner, spectators at Oxford’s RAW Charging Stadium can buy tickets, food and beverages with the cryptocurrency as opposed to cash and credit cards.

CoinCorner, Oxford City F.C.’s jersey sponsor, has also produced a touchless bitcoin credit card known as “The Bolt Card’’ to simplify the process. The team’s blockchain technology will debut at Saturday’s National League South match against Eastbourne Borough F.C., where reps from CoinCorner will be on hand to provide bitcoin tutorials.

In the U.S., the New York Yankees recently offered employees a savings plan with an option to convert parts of their salaries into bitcoin via the bitcoin financial services company NYDIG. 

Hawk-Eye Partners With NFT Tech to Add Live Tracking Data to Sports NFTs

By Andrew Cohen

Hawk-Eye Innovations, the Sony-owned optical tracking system used for officiating and data collection across major sports leagues, will expand its presence in the sports NFT space through its new partnership with NFT Tech, a Canadian company that is publicly listed on the NEO stock exchange in Toronto.

The deal will see Hawk-Eye build upon its initial NFT push that came when it created digital collectibles for this year’s Australian Open, in which those NFTs included on-court shot data collected by Hawk-Eye’s electronic line calling camera system used in the tennis tournament. Hawk-Eye will now accelerate integration of its live sports data into new collectibles with NFT Tech. Hawk-Eye’s cameras are used for replay, ball-tracking and player data collection across more than 20 sports, including leagues such as the NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA and FIFA for the upcoming World Cup.

English soccer club Manchester City signed a deal with Sony last year to create a metaverse version of its Etihad Stadium that includes image analysis and skeletal-tracking technology from Hawk-Eye. NFT Tech’s CEO is Adam De Cata, who was recently head of partnerships at Ethereum blockchain-based virtual worlds platform Decentraland.

King Power Stadium Adds Touchless Food and Beverage Kiosk for Leicester City Games

By Tom Friend

King Power Stadium in the UK, which houses the Leicester City Football Club, has just become the first European soccer facility to offer a touchless food and beverage kiosk on matchdays.

Unveiled during a pair of matches this past weekend, the stadium’s new frictionless Tap + Go technology allowed spectators to literally tap their credit cards onto a kiosk device, shop for items and then have their merchandise tracked and placed into a virtual basket. Their credit cards would then be automatically charged without the need for a checkout.

The system is operated by Levy UK+I, the sports and hospitality arm of Compass Group UK and Ireland, with a goal of expediting the in-stadium shopping experience. Facial recognition is not part of the check-out process, and customers were assured of complete anonymity.

Zippin similarly operates 25 autonomous stores at progressive U.S. venues such as Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center and Houston’s NRG Stadium. Zippin utilizes sensors and AI cameras to allow customers to pay virtually and avoid checkout lines.

Endeavor Streaming to Add AiBUY E-Commerce to UFC Fight Pass, Viewers Can Purchase Items Without Leaving Stream

By Andrew Cohen

Endeavor Streaming has partnered with live video shopping platform AiBUY to add its e-commerce overlay into Endeavor’s OTT properties, including UFC Fight Pass and New York Fashion Week: The Shows. AiBUY integrates with e-commerce software such as Shopify, Salesforce, Magento to overlay an on-screen shopping cart for viewers to purchase merchandise and other products without leaving their original stream.

UFC Fight Pass will plan to use AiBUY to offer products such as league merchandise, fight tickets, NFTs and other limited-run items that can only be bought through watching the streaming service. AiBUY syncs with a partner’s inventory so its artificial intelligence can recommend products to show on-screen based on supply and real-time action such as displaying an individual player’s jersey when they score a goal during a soccer match. UFC will also be able to customize the products seen by Fight Pass subscribers based on the country they’re located in.

“We keep you what we call inside the content for frictionless purchasing,” says Kyle Nelson, the newly named CEO of AiBuy. “What we’re hearing from Smart TV providers and networks is it’s very expensive to use a QR code, which is basically an ad. [QR codes also] require you to use multiple devices and distract from your attention. We can work with QR codes, it’s not a problem, but why wouldn’t you just want to stay inside the content?”

Nelson originally joined AiBuy as an advisor in 2020 and was previously a CMO and co-founder at MVPIndex, a social media marketing valuation platform for the sports industry. AiBUY announced his appointment to CEO today as well as the hiring of former StreamEngine CRO Jennifer Carper as its new chief operating officer. Endeavor hosted a beta launch with AiBUY during last year’s NYFW: The Shows video stream.

“With some of the pilots, we’re seeing anywhere between 10-20% and even higher unique visitors clicking on the shopping cart and looking through products. And we’re seeing anywhere between 4-5% and higher of those people buying products,” Nelson says. “There’s also tons of data that’s captured for the designer of what products were people looking at? How often did they revisit that product during that live event? I think you’re going to see some very unique engagement, especially from younger audiences.”

AiBuy has 82 patents and its shopping platform is planned to eventually be integrated into Endeavor’s entire streaming ecosystem. Streaming services powered by Endeavor include the WWE Network, NBA League Pass, Professional Triathletes Organization and Tottenham Hostspur’s SpursPlay.