An average NFL marketing email has an open rate of about 20%. As a thanks for attending designated regular season games or any playoff game, the league announced in November that free commemorative NFTs would be given out as a keepsake in partnership with Ticketmaster.
The open rate for those NFT-related emails was closer to 50 to 60% during the regular season, and now it’s closer to 75% for postseason games, according to Bobby Gallo, NFL SVP of club business development.
In all, the NFL distributed 250,000 NFTs for regular season games and roughly 100,000 through the first two rounds of the playoffs. While the NFTs were free for attendees, a select number have also been made available for sale to the general public. Thus far, all of the NFL NFTs have been of uniform design, but the Super Bowl versions will include a ticketholder’s section, row and seat numbers.
As for the motivation to experiment with NFTs, Gallo says it was, “above all else, curiosity and just a desire to learn in an emerging space.” All fans who bought through the sanctioned NFL ticketing networks—Ticketmaster, StubHub and SeatGeek—as well as all season ticketholders were eligible to receive one.
“Naturally for us, with the emergence of mobile ticketing—in our league, 97-98% of our tickets are now mobile—we felt that NFT’s could be a really fun way to provide fans with that commemorative ticket,” he adds. “If we were going to do something, we wanted it to be anchored in providing our fans with added value through a new and engaging way, and NFT’s are something we thought made a ton of sense.”
Ticket stubs are a thing of the past, as evidenced by Sherri Adams, pictured in 2008, wearing 35 years worth of Broncos season tickets.
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In addition to the high email open and click-through rates, the NFL has also been tracking how the NFTs have fared on the secondary market. Because each is inherently tied to the blockchain, it’s easy to follow the collectible’s journey for however many stops it makes. NFL club business development director Sam Rubinroit reports that some of the free NFTs given to fans have sold for a couple hundred dollars, while others released for purchase have been sold for more than $500.
“We’re seeing not only fans posting these on social and transferring them to family and friends, but also an interesting learning for us that there’s a clear secondary market for the NFTs, as well,” Rubinroit says.
Unlike with the traditional secondary market ticket, the NFL does collect a small percentage of revenue from each resale, but Gallo is quick to say that “this is not for us a financial play,” noting how many have been given away freely and emphasizing the interest in experimentation.
But such findings could be a harbinger of future exploration and opportunities. “We think there could be opportunities to reward fans for renewing their season tickets with NFTs or arriving to the game early, attending all home games—things like that,” Gallo says. “And even things like incentivizing fans to engage more with team sponsors, which, if you think about it, that can really start to unlock value for everybody involved: the league, the clubs, the fans.”
Down the road, teams could incentivize fans to renew season tickets or to attend every game by dangling popular NFTs.
As other companies have advocated, an NFT can serve more broadly as a membership, unlocking access to gated experiences. Maybe the NFT is the actual ticket. Back in September, the NFL, NFLPA and Dapper Labs announced the creation of a digital video NFT marketplace—a pro football version of NBA Top Shot—and someday those collectibles could serve a dual function as the ticket. All of these ideas are blue sky thinking for the NFL right now, but Gallo acknowledges that they are all under consideration.
“I don’t think we’re close to being there tomorrow,” he says. “That’s a longer runway, but absolutely. Things like that are certainly at the forefront of our thinking and our willingness to explore.”
And, of course, the biggest question to ponder is whether the NFL might entertain the promise of a blockchain-based ticketing system.
On that point, Gallo demurs, saying, “We’re always exploring innovation and technology and, candidly, we do a lot of that with our ticketing partner Ticketmaster, who is always willing to do that right alongside us.”