The Blackhawks Launch an 8-Bit NFT Campaign for their Fans and the Future
From the time they trounced the San Jose Sharks on March 11th of 2020 until May 9th 2021, the Chicago Blackhawks had been doing all that they do in the United Center: the wins, the loses, the overtime squeakers, the airhorns, the playing of The Fratellis “Chelsea Dagger”… sans fans. And even without those fans to cheer them live, the Blackhawks never gave up. They competed and gave fans something to watch each night from their homes or from the local watering holes across Second City. And then, right around the time they were winning a series against the Oilers, in March 2021- NFTs seemed to sprout onto the NHL scene — players like Matthew Tkachuk of the Flames got something going early on, the league gave teams some guardrails and a deadline, and the Hawks got to thinking… like they really put their thinking caps on. And Sweet was there to bring their NFT dreams into digital reality.
On August 26th, the Blackhawks launched an NFT project on Sweet dubbed the Inaugural NFT Collection consisting of twelve 8-bit NFT players and four pixelated NFT tickets. Each 8-bit player (think playable character from your favorite Atari 2600 or NES game) is on a home or away team, and each team has 6 players- 1 captain, 2 forwards, 2 defenders, and 1 goalie. The Blackhawks Home team led by Captain Grant “Champ” Parker and their Away team guided by Captain Madison “Maddy” Houser are in a perpetual battle to secure the love and devotion of Hawks fans everywhere. Each 8-Bit NFT Player, reminiscent of a simpler time when pixels on a TV or at the arcade captured our time and attention is available for purchase, but quantities are limited — One 1-of-1 auction per character (which includes some insane animation) and Four 4-of-4 auctions per character (sans animation).
As the NFT space continues to unfold and mature, the word “utility” has become embedded in the discussions around each drop or project launch. It’s almost like everyone is in agreement that we can’t just buy, sell and trade cartoon characters and JPEGs of boulders for the rest of our lives- not only is it unsustainable from the standpoint of the sheer amount of dollars being spent to secure one of these cartoons or rocks but just owning a digital asset that does nothing more than sit in a crypto wallet seems like NFTs are not exactly living up to the decentralizing and vast potential that we, at Sweet believe they have.
Enter the Blackhawks Inaugural NFT Collection, an NFT project that runs contrary to what most teams have done, while still aligning somewhat with the trend of characters stylized in a certain way. At Sweet, we believe the difference makers here are notable:
First — ‘Inaugural’ implies that this is the start of something and that is the goal with these 8-bit fictional Blackhawks players: to give them real utility and a life long after these auctions come to an end. In fact, there is utility in terms of real-world experiences that will be realized upon someone walking away with either the home Captain or the away Captain — the winning bidder for Captain Grant “Champ” Parker or Madison “Maddy” Houser will automatically unlock two tickets to a BlackHawks game in the upcoming season as well as a custom Blackhawks jersey. And physical goods- what we’ve seen to date are NFT projects created based on existing physical items…or existing IP, and that is- a brand finding something from its archives that can be recreated into an NFT. In this case, Sweet worked alongside the Blackhawks to create original IP specifically for the purpose of launching an NFT project with plans to have physical goods closely follow the NFT release.
Next — Ease-of-use and accessibility. The Blackhawks and Sweet were like-minded in how we approached this NFT release. The goal was to ensure that every fan could come away with an NFT, so price points were important, as was the user experience… making the process as well-defined and fan-centric as possible. Blackhawks fans can pay for an NFT just like they pay for anything else- PayPal, Credit Card, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Debit, and of course Cryptocurrency. And they can hold an NFT minted on Ethereum Mainnet or an ERC-721 minted on Polygon/Matic without any crypto or blockchain knowledge whatsoever.
Finally — True gamification. In some of the NFT releases we’ve seen to date, gamification has been a very manual process in that the winner must do something- they have to take some action to receive the special experience, the bonus NFT, or that ‘golden ticket’. In the case of the 4 pixelated NFT tickets Sweet worked with the Blackhawks to release: any fan who collects all 4 tickets will be automatically granted that bonus, ‘golden’ ticket. We’ve been careful to design and develop the Sweet NFT platform so the gamification element is integrated or hardwired into the NFT collection.
At this point, our clients and soon-to-be clients probably have our mantra… our recipe for a successful NFT campaign memorized: Give your customers something unique and compelling; make it easy for them to access, purchase, and own; and make the whole program fun and gamified. As NFTs continue to gain momentum and move beyond the hype of one-time drops and high-priced auctions, brands are going to want actionable and sustainable NFT campaigns that can engage and expand their customer or fan base, enhance their product offerings and generate predictable and repeatable revenue… AND that is why Sweet exists.