Why F1 is embracing NFTs, despite the critics


In the last few days, Ferrari declared in an earnings call that it is keeping an eye on the opportunities that could be open to it in the NFT marketplace.

Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna said: “For sure, the digital technologies, the Web 3.0 technologies that are using the blockchain and the NFT is an area that can be interesting for us. It deserves some attention.”

While Ferrari may do something in the future, some F1 teams have already begun dipping their toes in.

Alfa Romeo, through its partnership with Socios, minted a strictly limited edition NFT to its fan token holders at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix that triggered a spike in the team’s coin price.

It has also released NFTs of signed memorabilia.

The Swiss team was one of the first to sign up to the fan token ecosystem, of which an NFT offering has now been added as a bonus for its most-loyal holders.

The Swiss team’s commercial director Yan Lefort said: “I’m convinced that we are witnessing a shift in the way that sponsorship is evolving and how we actually sell, as a rights holder, our platforms.

“I think that we need to be right there in terms of being innovative in any kind of way, specifically when it comes to addressing to new audiences and new customers, etc.

“So I think the fan token and the agreement with Socios was exactly that: it was the opportunity to get into that universe, new business, but I’m going to be completely honest with you: I originally had no clue what we were talking about.

“I’m not a specialist at all. I had very little knowledge. But I have the gut feeling that this is exactly where a team like us or even the sport needs to be today in order to prepare the future.”

But Alfa Romeo is not alone in launching NFTs. Red Bull has been issuing its own digital collectibles, of 3D models of helmets, overalls, cars and cards, through American NFT platform Sweet.

McLaren has also been using the same company to launch a cars part McLaren Racing Collective, where fans can buy individual digital components to then build up their own full car if they want.

Just as Panini Football albums or baseball cards were a rite of passage for many, so NFTs are being embraced by the young generation as something to be purchased, swapped, shown off or sold.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing signed left hand racing glove

These are in effect the modern digital version of memorabilia and collectibles, like ticket stubs or sticker books were before.

There is no going back on the digital world, and what we are seeing now is almost certainly just the start of what will be more and more campaigns from teams, brands and potentially drivers as interest around NFTs grow.

Tom Mizzone, CEO of Sweet, sees huge opportunity and says NFTs are moving away from just being standard digital images.

“The tech is really evolving fast,” he tells Autosport. “Six months ago, the whole perception of an NFT was Taco Bell doing an animated GIF of a taco and auctioning it off! It was fun and it got a lot of press, and it was what I would call a novelty release.

“But the reality is we’re really pushing the boundaries now of how these things can be used. So for example, NFT’s can be bundled with physical merchandise as a means of validating the authenticity of that merchandise, so you know that something you bought from Red Bull or from McLaren is actually authentic.

“Another really cool thing that we’re doing is real time video moments. So imagine you’re at a hockey game and a world record is broken. If, within 30 seconds, we can make that in the form of a video NFT, then you can leave with that video moment right there from the arena. It’s the same thing we can do in F1. It’s very, very powerful.”

Divided opinion

Despite there being this buzz around non-fungible tokens, mention ‘NFT’ in a conversation these days and people’s opinions are hugely divided.

There are those who share the enthusiasm of the creators: who like the concept of unique digital collectible items, especially if there…

…Read more.

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