Thought Leadership with Sweet CEO Tom Mizzone

Credit: Sweet

Ever since NBA Top Shot had exploded in popularity and value in 2021, sports digital collectibles have entranced leagues, teams, players, and fans alike. This has led to the creation of marketplaces designed specifically for sports non-fungible tokens, a niche of a niche, but a popular one.

One of those platforms is NHL Breakaway, which releases hockey digital collectibles for fans every month. And the company behind that platform is Sweet.

In this thought leadership piece, we sat down with Sweet CEO and founder Tom Mizzone for his takes on the sports collectibles market. From the opportunities and challenges facing sports NFTs to what they have to offer to everyday fans, Mizzone offers his insight into this hotly competitive market.


First, could you introduce yourself, your organization, and what projects your organization has worked on in the digital sports collectibles space?

I’m Tom Mizzone, an entrepreneurial executive with 20+ years of experience launching, growing, and operating successful technology organizations. I am also the CEO and founder of Sweet, a blockchain based platform for gamified and social based digital collectibles experiences for professional sports and entertainment brands.

We founded Sweet in 2017 with a mission to help top sports organizations and global brands maximize fan engagement, brand partnerships, and revenue. To achieve this goal, we offer our users a purpose-built web3 platform, marketplace, and wallet.

Today, numerous well-known and beloved sports organizations have embraced Web3 technology, including the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and Milwaukee Bucks, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and NY Islanders, F1’s Red Bull Racing and McLaren Racing, and major brands such as Macy’s, KIA, Burger King, Old Navy, and many more. Sweet is also proudly the Official Digital Collectibles Partner and Platform of the NHL, NHLPA, and NHLAA.

What are some of the challenges affecting the physical sports collectibles market?

Traditional sports collectibles suffer from the usual limitations of physical goods. 

They are often fragile, and they can be counterfeited. Physical items require a lot of effort from collectors to obtain, store, and maintain. Because of these logistical and distribution challenges, they can suffer from both limited tradeability and scalping.

There is also no way to easily exchange or trade physical collectibles since it requires a number of unnecessarily complicated steps like arranging such trades or exchanges, finding buyers/sellers, meeting them in person, and so on. 

How do digital collectibles begin to address some of these challenges in your view?

The most important benefit and innovation of digital collectibles is that they offer the same uniqueness and non-fungibility as their physical counterparts but alleviate a lot of complications associated with them.

Blockchain technology can eliminate counterfeiting and allow users to verify the provenance and authenticity of every single collectible. The authenticity of digital collectibles is far more reliable and easier to manage as it can be tied to an NFT, which serves as an unforgeable certificate and solves many issues around fraud.

At the same time, a digital collectible is easier to store and ship without all the wear and tear that physical objects are prone to. As a result, they are also much easier to share, exchange, or trade with someone because it can be done seamlessly with just a couple of clicks on a marketplace or within the corresponding apps. 

Additionally, users can also show off their digital collectibles online on their social media accounts or in an offline frame that has storage and display capability.

Do you see a future when most sports collectibles will be digital and if so, is there a roadmap on how we get there?

A future where most sports collectibles are digital is increasingly likely with some studies showing the sports based digital collectibles market growing to over $50 billion by 2032 (that’s just the sports vertical of digital collectibles).

We can already see evidence of this in the rapid growth of the digital collectibles market and the continued commitment of professional sports leagues to heavily lean into this exciting new category. Digital collectibles offer almost instantaneous trading and swaps, coupled with unalterable proof-of-ownership, effectively eliminating disputes over authenticity and ownership.

The roadmap involves several key steps. We need continued technological innovation to enhance the security, usability, and accessibility of these platforms. There also needs to be a concerted effort from sports leagues and teams to adopt and promote digital collectibles to broader fans, as we have thus far seen with the NHL, NBA, NFL, and UFC, which are already creating vibrant digital collectibles markets.

These efforts help develop online communities that drive deeper engagement and participation among fans, particularly attracting a new generation accustomed to digital interactions. It’s also important to address potential challenges, such as environmental concerns related to blockchain energy consumption and ensuring a regulated market to prevent fraud. 

Are there any challenges that the digital sports collectibles market is facing, and how are organizations like Sweet and others trying to overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge today is mass adoption, users’ trust, and the reputation of digital collectibles. When the “NFT boom” occurred a few years ago, it was unfortunately driven by promises of profit and speculation. Today’s blockchain based projects are a far cry from their earlier iterations, and they offer users a much more engaging and entertaining experience.

At Sweet, we focus heavily on connecting users directly with the sport they love through unique, engaging, and rewarding experiences, while de-emphasizing the technical jargon and buzzwords that are often associated with Web3-based projects.

Another big challenge is accessibility. Web3 platforms are more complex, requiring users to set up their wallets and learn the basics of blockchain tech and network fees. To break the mold and facilitate mass adoption, Sweet’s mission is to make blockchain tech just as approachable and easy-to-use as traditional Web2 services.

When it comes to fan engagement, how are leagues, teams, and other sports organizations using digital collectibles to engage with fans in new ways?

One of the key strategies is to create immersive digital platforms where fans can interact with their favorite sports in novel ways. For instance, the NHL Breakaway platform allows fans to collect, trade, and showcase digital highlights of iconic moments. Users have public profiles where they can display their collections, like virtual trophy cases.

Trading lounges or trade features within these platforms replicate the nostalgic experience of swapping sports cards with friends but in a digital context. This adds a layer of interactivity and fun to the collecting process and strengthens the community bonds among fans.

Sports organizations also integrate digital collectibles into fan loyalty programs and other league initiatives, giving exclusive digital assets as rewards for attending games, engaging with content, or participating in events. This gives fans a tangible way to connect with teams and athletes beyond traditional merchandise and memorabilia.

Primarily what type of fan is engaging with sports collectibles – and how can that be broadened in the future?

It tends to be younger, tech-savvy fans who are comfortable with digital platforms and the concept of virtual ownership. This demographic is drawn to sports collectibles for their entertainment value, social aspects, and innovative ways they can interact with their favorite sports, teams, and athletes.

This can be broadened in the future with general community-building efforts and educational initiatives that highlight the value of these platforms and demystify the technical aspects for traditional collectors and casual fans. It’s also a good idea to broaden the range of collectible types offered to further attract fans of niche sports, emerging athletes, and historical moments.

Many of the early adopters were from the native crypto community but it’s exciting to see more sports fans pouring into the community. I recently spoke with one member of the NHL Breakaway community who shared that he had no experience with MetaMask, wallets, or purchasing crypto, but just loved collectible physical hockey cards as a kid. He discovered the NHL Breakaway platform powered by Sweet and now he’s hooked on digital collecting!

There are some statistics that Gen Z and Alpha aren’t as interested in traditional sports. How can digital sports collectibles change this?

I believe that one of the most innovative and appealing aspects of digital collectibles is the ability to gamify the experience, making such items much more than just non-interactive “assets” that you can only hold, trade, or show off on your profile. Gamification elements add excitement.

For instance, Sweet allows collectors not only to get fully immersed in their hobby but also to freeze their collectibles and put them into the game. This way, if they collect all the different pieces of a particular set, they can additionally unlock a never-before-issued collectible, adding more value to their collections or even an in-person experience with the league or a specific team.

Furthermore, these set completion quests can also be tailored to collectors’ preferences. For example, if someone loves collecting saves, goalies, or anything related to a particular team, they will be very interested in a corresponding quest or a challenge, and the more it matches their interests, the more exciting it will be for them to participate in those experiences.

Such interactivity and the “fun factor” are attracting a wide range of new audiences, many of whom have never been interested in sports collectibles before.

We’ve seen some digital sports collectibles platforms struggle when there is no financial incentive to collect. How do companies overcome this challenge?

I believe gamification is the key to the evolution and maturity of digital collectibles. Over the past couple of years, Web3 projects have moved further and further away from focusing on financial incentives and toward offering massively increased utility for innovative use cases.

Digital collectibles are being increasingly viewed as valuable and useful on their own rather than as speculative instruments. Web3 gaming is a notable example of this trend. Game mechanics coupled with the ability to unlock exciting experiences, rewards, tickets, and access is a winning combination.

Community is a big buzzword in Web3. How are sports organizations using digital collectibles to help build online communities of fans?

Web3 allows users to enjoy the equivalent of real-life experiences through their gamified collections in the most convenient and seamless way possible. From marketplaces to forum discussions, it is extremely easy to communicate and trade with other dedicated collectors.

Digital collectibles can be leveraged in a myriad of innovative ways that are simply impossible on Web2 platforms, like exclusive token-gated offerings, rewards, messaging, and much more. With all this combined, Web3 is the perfect tool to make digital sports collectibles massively more fun, engaging, inclusive, diverse, and accessible.

Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We’re just scratching the surface of where this technology can go and Sweet is working on some exciting new initiatives to push digital fandom even further. The future is very bright for officially licensed digital collectible experiences in the sports vertical! 

Where can our readers find you?

You can find our NHL program at and on socials at @nhlbreakaway, More information about Sweet and our other programs can be found at or @sweet on socials.

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