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How handball can combine the real and the digital worlds

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EHF / Björn Pazen

The EHF FINAL4 Men is always a trailblazer for future technologies — for example, the first introduction of the i-Ball some years ago or several more future trends. This tradition continues in 2022. The focus of the European Handball Brunch — the business event organised by EHF Marketing GmbH — was on the usage of NFTSs, blockchain, NFC and sustainability in sports. “EHF Marketing introduces again ideas for a better future for handball, for the sports and the environment around,” said EHF President Michael Wiederer in his opening words.

Christina Gossel (CG Sustain) explained the impact of sustainability in sports under the motto “Make the future. Sports have the power to change the world.” In environmental, social and economical matters, sports can ensure a better future.

“Sports have a general positive impact of the social dimension, like through fair play, health, gender equality and wellbeing,” Gossel said. Additionally, sports events have the chance to reduce the carbon foot print by saving energy, applying reusable energy, using climate-neutral transport, and saving and reusing waste. “Everybody can win with sustainable sport,” was Gossel’s key message.

The ‘masterclass’ of the business event was about the usage of NFTs, blockchain technology and the Metaverse in the context of handball. David Roth and Florian Auburger from the agency RapidPeaks gave an insight view on the new dimension of technology. “NFTs are not just a trend, Metaverse is the new world,” was the key statement.

NFTs (non-fungible token) means a digital ownership of a physical product or a digital item — and links the real world with the virtual one using decentralised blockchains (and crypto-currencies) to give the power back to the owners of the unique NFTs. Core target group are Generation Z and Alpha. Scarcity, ownership and bragging rights are the key claims for the NFTS and their owners. And NFTs connects the real world and Metaverse, with the future goal to merge both worlds.

“NFTs are the key to bring handball to younger generations; to activate new target groups to make handball indoor sport number one in Europe. Handball already has a strong community. It is the job to connect the Generation Z and Alpha communities and the NFT communities with the handball community. All three groups share the interest for (e)-sports and entertainment,” said Roth.

Potential ways to integrate NFTs in handball are collectibles like digital cards or ball collectives (the playing ball of a key match, which enables the buyer to receive additional digital content), fan tokens to boost the engagement of fans through special rewards when you buy match tickets or merchandising as a loyalty programme — including the option of earning provisions, when those tokens are resold. A potential option are ticket NFTs to limit the prize for the re-sale or the ‘Golden 4 ticket’ — a lifetime-valid ticket for all EHF FINAL4 tournaments, limited to four, with added digital value and special treatment in the real world.

Another idea was a digital EHF museum showcasing epic moments of European handball as artworks, or the wearable, which was presented by Lukas Paschke from the Swiss startup ColectID — a special EHF FINAL4 shirt which includes NFC technology to be scanned by smartphones to receive exclusive content like almost-live videos from the EHF FINAL4.

“This shirt combines both worlds and brings fans closer to the event by the usage of NFTs and NFC technology,” Paschke said. “You offer something new with added value for the buyer,” Roth added, underlining: “In terms of NFTS and Metaverse you can wait and see or you can try and learn. Find partners to cooperate and try to explore how it works.”

The shirts handed over to all participants at the EHF business event even can be used to create a digital twin (avatar) to wear and use in Metaverse. And the seller can collect data on the buyer to give them exclusive offers for new products, communicate with the buyer or use the NFTs for campaign activations.

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