Messi and Ronaldo Lead World Cup NFT Bonanza

GOATs on parade: World Cup maestro drops are among multiple Web3 projects competing for attention in Qatar

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Cristiano Ronaldo | Source: Shutterstock

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off this weekend in Qatar. Millions of soccer fans are not only getting their fill of sports and competition this year, but they also can choose to interact with the various Web3 brands and companies that are hoping to achieve some goals of their own. 

During the last FIFA World Cup in 2018 in Russia, the term Web3 was not a part of the global conversation. In 2022, however, athlete NFT drops and Bored Apes in Adidas commercials, for example, are accepted additions to the month-long tournament.

FIFA takes matches into the metaverse 

Starting with the international governing body of football itself, FIFA launched its own NFT marketplace deployed on the Algorand blockchain called FIFA+ Collect. Similar to the NBA Top Shots platform, users can collect video moments and highlights from previous World Cups. 

Users can buy a pack of trading cards with three randomly selected highlights or single moments. The most expensive NFT in the marketplace at the time of writing is French player Kylian Mbappe’s goal against Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup for $7,500.

Additionally, FIFA partnered with blockchain-based companies — Uplandme, Matchday, Phygtl and Altered State Machine — to develop various soccer-themed Web3 games. 

One mobile game called AI League, created in partnership with the Altered State Machine protocol, will let fans who make it to the top of the leaderboard be eligible for digital and physical prizes such as Vivo phones, gaming equipment and Adidas gift cards.

The Upland metaverse, which maps virtual land to real world cities, has set up a digital replica of the FIFA World Cup Lusail stadium, village and shops. Users can trade NFTs of country crests, apparel and posters from all 32 World Cup teams to complete digital collection albums. World Cup village properties can only be won in tournament-specific Upland activities.

Additionally, the Argentinian player Lionel Messi-backed gaming startup Matchday collaborated with FIFA to create a betting app. Users who challenge friends to World Cup predictions can win by getting it right and collecting trading cards of footballers who perform the best during the tournament.

Lionel Messi’s second NFT drop

Messi teamed up with Web3 studio Ethernal Labs and its NFT marketplace Ethernity to develop his second NFT collection — the Messi Time Machine Collection.

Five new digital collectibles are meant to commemorate the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s career. The first NFT in the series highlights his first World Cup appearance in 2006. Holders of that token will have access to up to four additional collectibles commemorating previous World Cup appearances in 2010, 2014 and 2018. A raffle will grant 10 holders a chance to claim an NFT for this year’s tournament.

The football star first worked with Ethernity in 2021 on the “The Messiverse” collection, which grossed $3.6 million and is reported as the platform’s most successful collection to date. 

“Web3 is catapulting traditional sporting events like the World Cup into the future by offering fans, teams, brands and players a new avenue to connect and gather as a community,” Nick Rose Ntertsas, CEO and co-founder of Ethernal Labs, told Blockworks.

He added that the World Cup serves as a “bridge” between mainstream fans and the Web3 world: “Players and brands recognize they must cater to new technologies like digital collectibles and metaverse meet-ups to catch the attention of fans that grew up in a digital age.”

Additionally, Messi stars in a World Cup commercial with Adidas-owned Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT, Indigo Herz, on the front of a cereal box aptly named “INDIGOOOOOLS.” Adidas purchased BAYC #8774 Indigo Hertz last year for a total of 46 ETH ($156,000 at the time) as part of its Adidas Originals ecosystem. 

Cristiano Ronaldo enters NFT space

While Messi has been a blockchain proponent for the past couple of years, the 2022 World Cup marks the arrival of one of his rivals to the industry — Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the most followed individual on Instagram, and crypto exchange Binance decided to take advantage of that fact.

Ronaldo launched an NFT collection on Binance.com as part of an exclusive, multi-year partnership with the exchange. The 6,645 NFT CR7 collection features seven animated statues depicting an iconic moment in Ronaldo’s life. 

The digital collectibles have four levels of rarity, and depending on the NFT rarity, owners have access to different perks — ranging from a personal message from Ronaldo, autographed merchandise, access to future NFT drops and complimentary gift boxes.

Ronaldo said in a statement that he was “able to make something that not only captures the passion of the game but rewards fans for all the years of support.”

However, Binance.com’s NFT marketplace isn’t available to US users, so they are instead eligible to receive a souvenir NFT for thresholds of USD deposits made on the platform within the promotion period. Only then will users gain whitelist access to purchase future CR7 NFTs.  

Recently celebrity-endorsed crypto advertisements have come under fire given a class-action lawsuit against public figures Tom Brady, Steph Curry, Larry David and others who were hired by now-bankrupt FTX. 

Earlier this year, Binance opted for a social media campaign that ironically used celebrities and athletes to warn crypto investors about listening to celebrities. 

Nevertheless, Binance is now out with a 60-second television commercial featuring Ronaldo to promote the partnership and the NFT collection during the World Cup.

Budverse x World Cup 2022 NFTs   

American Beer maker Budweiser made a $75 million agreement with FIFA to be World Cup’s official beer sponsor. The deal was altered, however, when FIFA decided to ban the sale of alcohol in its stadium two days before the first game. 

Budweiser has instead decided to give away all the beer they were planning on selling to the country that wins the tournament.

In the meantime, they are selling live NFTs that update in real-time throughout the tournament. Live scoreboard NFTs present holders with an animated scoreboard, featuring their chosen nation, that tracks the team’s statistics. 

Each mint of a Budverse NFT costs $100 and includes a physical merch pack, including a scarf, a color changing Budweiser aluminum cup and a trading card. Holders are also eligible to enter into a sweepstakes at purchase for a chance to win a VIP trip to the tournament.

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