English Premier League club West Ham United partners with Socios to launch digital fan token

If, like me, you were wondering when cryptocurrency adoption may be mainstreamed and the industries that might drive it, sports and eSports would likely be near the top of your list.

Well, English Premier League soccer club West Ham United has just announced that they are launching a digital fan token on blockchain, via a partnership with a platform called Socios.com. Launch is expected in time for the start of the 2019/2020 season, commencing on 10 August.

Socios.com describes itself as a “new app for football fans” which gives users unprecedented access to voting rights to their favourite clubs. Having already inked deals with European mega-clubs Juventus and Paris St. Germain, West Ham United is the first English Premier League club to sign up.

In 2018, Socios.com’s native cryptotoken chiliZ (CHZ) received significant investment from Binance and Bancor, managing to hit their hard cap of USD$65m.

In West Ham United’s official announcement, the club describes the blockchain initiative as: “A first-of-its-kind mobile app for football fans, where fans acquire the ability to vote – by buying, earning or hunting for Fan Tokens – on selected club decisions, earn club rewards and compete for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

To acquire West Ham United tokens, fans will either have to first buy CHZ and trade them, earn or ‘hunt’ them. The actions required to earn tokens has not yet been announced and as for hunting, let’s hope there is a proper Augmented Reality element to the app, allowing fans to search for them at matches and even outside of the stadium.

I should also note that because the token is exchange tradeable, it will be subject to the same type of volatility that a standard cryptocurrency will be. How this impacts fan decision making, if at all, is unclear at this stage.

I think that giving fans the ability to vote on club decisions, with that voting being directly proportional to the number of tokens held is actually genius, mainly because avid football fans will absolutely want to participate in club decisions. From an engagement point of view, there are two things here.

  1. At launch, the club must be committed to delivering a range of decisions that fans can really sink their teeth into. Not only should there be a range of different decisions to participate in, but there should also be good regularity with which these requests to participate are filtering through.

Here are some examples of decisions that fans could be asked to participate in (taken from the Socios.com whitepaper):

  • For football teams: choosing the team’s 3rd Jersey designs, influencing line-ups in friendly matches, choosing between fan offerings.
  • For eSports teams (where applicable): match-ups for teams to compete against at events, exhibition games and practice matches.
  • For teams built from the ground up to run on Socios.com: which players are drafted onto the team (chosen from an eligible draft pool).
  • There must be a significant number of token earning and hunting opportunities available for fans. If the strategy mainly rests on the purchase of the CHZ token, this will restrict the potential of many fans to participate in decisions (due to lack of token holdings), thereby hampering long term engagement.

Whilst this is a different model to a pure loyalty program design, I think that if executed correctly, it has a lot of potential because of that emotional connection of a fan to their favourite club and their desire to participate in the decision making. If this program can also deliver significant value with respect to ongoing token earning and hunting opportunities, as well as a range of interesting redemption options, they’ll be on to a winner.

Max Savransky is Loyalty Director of Loyalty & Reward Co, a leading loyalty consulting firm based in Sydney. He has 10 years’ experience within the loyalty industry including roles at Mastercard Loyalty (Pinpoint), Silverneedle (Next & Sage Hotels) and Pureprofile. As Loyalty & CRM Manager at HOYTS, he launched the highly successful partnership with Qantas Frequent Flyer, including a world-first Qantas Points in-store redemption proposition. Max consults on program design, commercial modelling and lifecycle strategy, across both traditional and blockchain loyalty projects.

Max is an active cryptocurrency trader and a key contributor to www.blockchainloyalty.io, a global resource centre for everything blockchain loyalty.

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