Sport + Blockchain = a Better World
[I gave this talk at the “Blockchain + AI + Human = Magic” event produced by MIT Connection Science and Forbes, held in the Tata Dome at Davos during the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting. Thanks to John Werner for the invite and photography.]
At Attention Span, we work on strategy, research and content with companies in food, healthcare and sport. We think of our approach as “collaborative futurism,” and focus on the emerging technologies shaping the future of those industries. We call them the Forces of Change. Blockchain is one of the most significant of the FoCs we monitor. While blockchain has made headlines in other industries first, we are seeing some early indications that blockchain will change the key structures of sport for the better.
1. What’s good about sport
Let’s start at the individual level: Sport teaches young humans to give their best effort, use strategy to win, and to lose honorably if it comes to that. It also gives rise to friendships among teammates and opportunities in other areas of life.
Sport also provides a vector of optimism and positive self-identity for disadvantaged individuals and communities.
At the societal level, it’s clear that the higher the level of sport participation in a city, region or nation, the better the health of its population.
More profoundly, sport has the power to hold the world’s attention and to foster international goodwill, bringing a vast array of countries together around sporting events, and allowing nation-states to interact without requiring treaties or suffering mass casualties.
- Take the Olympics, where we saw North and South Korea, of all countries, team up to send a united joint women’s hockey team onto the ice last year.
- More than half the world’s population watched the World Cup, racking up somewhere on the order of half a trillion minutes of viewing time. More than a billion humans watched the world cup final, the vast majority of them cheering for teams and players from countries they will never have the opportunity to visit.
Sometimes even war takes a day off to enjoy sport, as we saw in the Christmas Truce of 1914, when friendly football matches broke out among opposing regiments on the front lines of World War I.
2. Sport’s positive influence is under constant attack
Let’s talk about what’s not so great in sport.
Corruption and Bribery
- FIFA scandals
- Award of Olympics and World Cup host status
- Inter-league and intra-league corruption
- Point-shaving / match manipulation
- Gene doping
Participation in sport is waning, especially among young athletes who have embraced high-engagement videogames like Fortnite— in the U.S., multiplayer games have become the default social interaction space for Generation Alpha.
3. Blockchain will make sport better
Peerspoint – a Swiss startup currently working with Swiss Rugby, recently raised a seed round.
Sports Technology Group – which has several former Canadian olympians on its founding team.
These two companies are creating blockchain-enabled team-management and league-management systems that serve as shared ledgers connecting a wide range of stakeholders: teams, athletes, fans, governing bodies, agents, broadcasters, sponsors, scouts, merchandisers, and more.
Both companies let sport fans invest directly in players and teams and earn tokenized value for social media activity in support of teams.
- Fan-Controlled Football League
Based in Las Vegas, the league’s blockchain-based voting system gives fans a say in every major team decision, from draft picks and uniform design down to offensive and defensive strategy.
Participation & Fitness
Backed by Mark Cuban, Lympo uses a smartphone app to track and reward its users for workout activity with LYM cryptocurrency tokens.
Just think if Niantic Labs had tokenized Pokemon Go activity — the game’s users walked a combined 8.7 billion kilometers hunting for Pokemon in the game’s first 6 months.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask the blockchain pioneers gathered here: when you’re considering where to direct your time and energy for your next project, give sport a look and help make the world a better place.