Sweet CEO, Tom Mizzone Talks Sports and NFTs with the Hosts of “Wait…What?” Sports Business Podcast

Earlier this week, our founder and CEO, Tom Mizzone was on an episode of Wait…What? #sportsbiz chat with DP & McGhee, a podcast created and hosted by sports marketing industry veterans, Tim McGhee (“McGhee”) and David Paro (“DP”). AND — it is a great listen! Before the interview with Tom, DP and McGhee discussed a number of important events in the sports world including the passing of Sports icon: Bill Russell aka Lord of the Rings (11 Championship Rings!).

If you missed this episode, you’re going to want to listen to it in its entirety. You can find it here:

Below, is just a small taste of the Q&A they had around the topic of NFTs and Sports… how sports organizations can use NFT technology to improve fan engagement and a little bit about the upcoming Official NHL Digital Collectibles Program.

Why is it so important for a sports organization to have a strategy around NFTs before getting started?

Interestingly, this is a question we get asked on a daily basis as we activate teams, brands, and now leagues, and so, the answer I would give and the answer I do give when this question is posed to us by our brand partners is: You need a strategy because this technology can drive a lot of different brand initiatives. 24 months ago, NFT technology was really looked at as a means of transforming digital art… so we all know about the Beeple NFT drop that sold for $69 million, but the technology is now in a place where if you’re a team or a league, you can use NFTs to drive consumer engagement, to foster deep relationships with your fans, to put more butts in seats and drive ticket sales.

And those initiatives don’t just happen by accident, it requires really mapping out a cohesive journey for the fan. And what we do well at Sweet is help our brand partners create that NFT strategy and help them deliver an engaging fan journey. Anytime a brand calls us, we don’t just jump in and say: “okay, let’s get your project live ASAP”. The first thing we do is ask them — What are you trying to achieve? And the question I like to ask is — 12 months out… after launch when we look back — What would define unmistakable success in your minds? And if their answer is “well, we want to know who our fans” or “we want to engage our fanbase” or “we want to sell more tickets” or maybe it’s all of all the above… or it’s “we want to drive more revenue”; those are all good answers and each of those goals are really important, but they take time. You wouldn’t believe how many multi-billion dollar companies will call Sweet and ask: “Can you get us live by next Friday?” and the answer we give is — sure, we can get you live by next Friday, but we promise you, that’s not the best strategy. You have to take your consumers on a journey and really start to leverage the technology to check off those very important brand initiatives and that takes planning.

You have to take your consumers on a journey and really start to leverage the technology to check off those very important brand initiatives and that takes planning.

What can you share about Sweet’s partnership with the NHL?

Well, the first thing I can share is it’s been 15 months in the making. And from what I’ve heard there were about 70 companies in contention to get this deal, so I’m very proud of our team at Sweet and all the work that’s gone into winning the deal. I remember the very first call we had with the NHL and I remember being blown away and impressed by their initial vision, and they’ve stayed very anchored to that vision since day one which is over and over and over hammering home on this concept of being fan first… wanting to be different, wanting to put the fan experience front and center as the most important aspect; it wasn’t about revenue, it wasn’t about data, it was: how do we make a very fun, compelling consumer experience where the fans can experience the sport they love at a whole new level.

And to the NHL’s credit, they understood some of the biggest hurdles we had to knock over to make that happen, so for example- you see other leagues and programs that are really watered down in the types of IP that can be turned into NFTs because they don’t have all the rights. With this particular deal, we were able to do a deal with the NHL, the Alumni Association, and the Player Association — that is fan first… and the team marks. And so, what do I mean… why is that fan first? well, it means that now fans can see that historic Gretzky moment in all its glory. We can bring a collectible or a player into the ecosystem and that player can be wearing the official jersey. You see some of these crazy NFT drops and you wonder: Why is this famous athlete wearing a white T-shirt? Why isn’t he in uniform? Why is he not wearing the helmet?

And so, it started with making sure all the anchor tenant parties were involved. Bringing all that together into a common deal makes it really phenomenal for the fans, so we have historic video highlights and we have the current season, historical seasons, and then digital collectibles on top of it all. When you bring all that together, you can create really compelling consumer experiences — unwrapping packs, or in our case — blocks of ice that will break open to reveal amazing video moments… you have gamification, questing, IRL, and even extensions into the metaverse, meaning — what does it mean to own one of these NFTs and what utility does it bring me, not only in the real-world or real life, but also in blockchain games and metaverse experiences. It’s a very comprehensive program; the team is deep in development right now, and we can’t wait to reveal it to the world. It’s going to be awesome.

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