Chances and Risks of a virtual football stadium in the Metaverse

In cooperation with a Bundesliga club, we were among those asked about the potential and risks for the Metaverse. You can find the results in this article.

Fan relationships and value creation opportunities

Especially in commercial professional sports, there are already a variety of Web3 applications, such as fan tokens, digital collectibles or the sale of virtual fan merchandise. For many brands and clubs, however, the metaverse also offers an obvious solution for tapping into opportunities and elevating the relationship with the fan to a new and, above all, more interactive level. In order to identify both the potentials and the risks of a metaverse presence for soccer clubs, this article will clarify which concrete value-creation opportunities a virtual stadium.

What role does the metaverse already play today?

In general, technology cannot be generalized as the one metaverse. This is because while the technology is already state of the art in industry and has a high level of productivity in the automotive or healthcare sectors, it is still considered an innovation driver in the areas of experience staging and new work.

How can the metaverse be explained? In the simplest sense, it is not just a virtual world, but rather interconnected virtual social spaces where users can meet and interact in a variety of ways.

For brands, this represents a non-negligible opportunity for targeting and staging, especially for the young target groups of Gen-Alpha and Gen-Z. With 75% of these audiences having already purchased a digital asset and 90% engaging in virtual worlds, companies need to strategically expand their presence in virtual worlds.

The former Facebook, which rebranded itself as Meta in October 2021, calls the Metaverse one of the "most important technologies of our time" and expects the Metaverse to make a major breakthrough in the consumer space in the next five years. Nike is also focusing on developing virtual NFT sneakers through its acquisition of Web3 company RTFKT. This is not only to create another touchpoint to a younger target group, but also to help shape the "successor to the mobile Internet."

Also according to McKinsey, the metaverse also represents a major opportunity for businesses. This opportunity could be worth $5 trillion by 2030. Investment in the Metaverse has exceeded $120 billion in 2022 alone - more than double the 2021 level.

Gartner Hypecycle Metaverse

Manchester City in the Metaverse

In an official press release, Sony Group Corporation announced its collaboration as the official Virtual Fan Engagement Partner of reigning English champions Manchester City in November 2021. The partnership will create a proof of concept that will "develop new forms of digital content and services that integrate the physical and virtual worlds to engage and excite existing and new generations of sports fans around the world."

Specifically, the project involves a virtual replica of the Etihad Stadium, the venue for home games and thus the home of Manchester City, in a metaverse. One of the main goals is to give fans from all over the world the opportunity to experience the home of the club regardless of their geographical location.

As a first step, the proof of concept will allow users to engage with the virtual replica of the stadium and participate in various online games.

Virtual avatars move around the stadium and can interact with each other. In addition, users can understand the soccer strategy behind the real team's performance by viewing matches from different perspectives through the application of VR technology. Sony has reportedly already attached sensors to Manchester City players during home games to make this possible.

"We can imagine recreating a game in the Metaverse, watching the game live, participating in the action from different angles and making the stadium as full as you want because it's unlimited, it's completely virtual." Says City Football Group's chief marketing officer.

Potentials in the Metaverse

As part of an empirical study of a Bundesliga club, in which we at minth were also allowed to participate, various strategic potentials for a metaverse project for a professional football club crystallized. The five most frequently mentioned are visualized in the following graphic.

Strategic potentials for football clubs in the metaverse

When a club creates novel and special experiences that have never been seen before in this form, it naturally attracts attention. And not just from fans in their own city or country. By dissolving geographical boundaries, the club appeals to a completely new fan base and fills the virtual stadium with an unlimited number of spectators from all over the world.

If I can watch the 2023 Champions League final in Turkey from all possible perspectives and with a stadium atmosphere on my sofa in Germany with VR glasses, this has extreme potential for the fan experience. And this experience doesn't have to end after the event. If the ticket is an NFT ticket, it becomes a tamper-proof proof of authenticity and attendance, and can open up a whole new world of value after the event. For example, the NFT ticket can serve as exclusive access to virtual meet-and-greets, matchworn jerseys, a virtual stadium tour, or as a collectible that can be exchanged for special added value within the club if a certain number of tickets are purchased.

In addition, a club with a Metaverse presence positions itself as highly innovative and as a digital pioneer, which in turn creates completely new opportunities for partnerships and sponsorship.

Risks in the Metaverse

The same study also examined the risks, which, apart from the financial cost, are mainly limited to two points. First, the overall innovative nature may be met with rejection by fans. In particular, if certain buzzwords or incomprehensible communication are superficial, then alarm bells can quickly go off in the fan's mind and the substance and benefit behind the entire project can be questioned.

In this respect, as with any Web3 project, it is essential to make clear what the benefits of this project are. A sensitization of the fan community is necessary.

The second issue mentioned was a poor customer experience. If the virtual stadium experience does not meet expectations or even creates a negative experience, then the brand image of the club can be damaged.

What does this mean for Businesses?

As the Metaverse evolves, executives should keep an eye on Web3 - enabling technology, blockchain, and NFTs will enable much innovation in the Metaverse. The key is for companies to start looking at a strategy today and to develop and implement initial concepts.

Importantly, this does not mean directly creating a virtual world. Rather, possibilities should be explored as to how a brand can familiarize its customers with the innovations surrounding NFTs, the metaverse, or AR in a user-friendly manner so as not to fall behind in the area of customer experience.

To make it easy to get started, we are currently offering a free Web3 potential analysis. By answering a few short questions, you can find out which possibilities we consider particularly promising for you and your business model based on our many years of experience. Just click here to get your individual result.