Late last night, the Australian Open (AO) — which bills itself as one of the most tech-savvy sporting events — announced it will launch an NFT collection on the Ethereum blockchain that will have real-life utility holders.
The collection consists of 6,776 “Art Balls,” which are realistic tennis balls corresponding to 19cm x 19cm plots on an Australian Open tennis court. Each ball has the potential for utility. If a winning shot falls on a plot associated with a particular art ball, the owner of that NFT art ball will receive an airdrop of the winning point video footage, Decentraland wearables, and Australian Open merch.
This meshing of NFT collectible metadata with real-life data is an innovative turn, even during a time period where innovation in the NFT industry is the norm.
Craig Tiley, tournament director, said in a statement, “The AO has always been seen as one of the most innovative sporting events in the world and this project is just another example of our team pushing the boundaries to provide our fans with better access and engagement with the AO.”
The collection’s attempt to bring utility to its NFTs doesn’t stop there. The owner of the art ball corresponding to the tournament winning point will receive the actual game ball in a specially-crafted case.
While the Australian Open is applying inventive techniques to bring utility to their NFTs, the process of creation, delivery, and engagement with the community follows in the footsteps of successful NFT collections before it.
The 6,766 “Art Ball” collection is a generative art collection. And like others, some traits are randomized and some will likely be rarer than others. Two examples of traits expected to be randomized are the coloring of the balls and the color background.
The drop appears to be fair for both distribution and pricing, with the NFTs randomized upon mint and the pricing a flat rate. This may prevent targeting specific token numbers or the preference for richer buyers as in the defunct bonding curve pricing strategy.
Just as the Australian Open is inventive with its NFT collection, it is innovative within the tennis world. The AO is the first major tennis association to wade into the NFT industry, following on the heels of American sports leagues the NBA and MLB, along with certain soccer clubs that are licensed with Sorare.
The AO is going one step further than those clubs, however, and adding a Metaverse viewing option within Decentraland to appeal to viewers who either won’t be able to make the trip to Australia or are hesitant to go to an event with thousands of people in-person.
Ridley Plummer, a project manager at Tennis Australia, told Blockworks, “We want the AO to be the world’s most accessible and inclusive sports and entertainment event, and with the unique challenges fans have faced getting to Melbourne we’ve fast-tracked our launch into the Metaverse.”
The “Art Balls” collection is expected to mint on January 13th for the price of 0.067 ETH or around $300.