Congratulations to the World Series champions: the Atlanta Braves. As we celebrate the crowning of the new champions, Candy Digital is getting fully into the swing of tapping Major League Baseball’s passionate fan base. Here’s how it plans to raise awareness and engagement of MLB NFTs.
Baseball is known as ‘America’s Pastime.’ The larger-than-life players of the game have inspired countless generations to take up the sport. Jaw-dropping moments have been replayed over and over as a ‘passing of the torch’ within a family’s fandom. The sport has generated the entire range of emotions one can experience; everything from the nonchalant, chill vibe of a day game to the exhilarating goosebumps generated by the most exciting two words in all of sports – ‘Game 7.’
Now there is a way to blend those physical experiences with digital ones that transcend the traditional baseball experience.
Enter Candy Digital, a next-generation digital collectible company launched by three giants within the sports, digital and investing realms: Michael Rubin, chief exec at Fanatics, Mike Novogratz, founder and chief exec at Galaxy Digital, and Gary Vaynerchuk, serial entrepreneur and chairman of VaynerX.
Candy Digital provides a new way for fans to showcase their love of the sport: Candy is building out digital ecosystems and creating a place for fans and collectors to go to find a new type of collectible and gather as part of that community alongside a secondary marketplace where people can transact and interact with each other.
In the thick of the 2021 regular season, the company struck a long-term partnership with Major League Baseball as the league’s first exclusive NFT partner. With a $100m Series A financing round announced on October 21, valuing the company at $1.5bn, Candy is primed to jump headfirst into the new landscape.
“Our approach to business is we are all fans and collectors ourselves,” says Scott Lawin, Candy Digital chief exec. “You understand what it means to be a fan. We think of collecting as a combination of identity and storytelling.”
This next evolution of fandom manifests within the company’s diverse audiences. Broken down into three segments, each of their fandoms resonates with the offerings that Candy provides.
1. Crypto-savvy collectors. The earliest and most fervent adopters of the company, these fans are incredibly familiar with cryptocurrency and are already active in the NFT market. They are an ideal target audience as they are already passionate about baseball. Since Candy’s beta platform launched on the same day as the Series A financing was announced, the company skyrocketed from a standing start to 30,000 consumers in eight days.
“We pride ourselves on not taking a product approach. We take a community approach,” says Lawin. “Our community lives very vocally and actively in discord. They’re our best marketing mechanism as they tell their friends about their purchases and share those ‘unboxing’ moments with their kids.”
2. Digital natives. The second audience base is already akin to living a social-heavy, technology-intertwined lifestyle. They are intermediating their entertainment, social and commerce through a mobile screen and other digital means. They are a part of the company’s early adopters and want to be involved in what’s new and be a part of future trends.
“This subset isn’t satisfied with being a passive consumer of media,” says Lawin. “They want to be engaged content users with more episodic and gamified content.”
3. Everyday sports fans. The company’s most opportune section of fandom comes from those who are not necessarily following crypto trends or the NFT market. Yet there is no mistaking that they are big fans of baseball. The Candy purchasing process is easy to use for them as they can use FIAT digital checkout to get in on the action. Some fans will go further into crypto, while some will look to keep an eye out for further baseball-related NFT offerings.
“This part of our fanbase represents our broadest audience in this space,” says Lawin. “They often remark to us, ‘I heard about this product advertised on TV. I don’t know what NFTs are but I want to get involved.’ They often started out collecting physical baseball cards and hats and are interested in continuing their collector mindset within the digital realm.”
New series to spur new sales
Fortunately for these fans, the company’s model caters exactly to this growing subset. There are three new series that help to capture this growing audience.
The MLB ‘Play of the Day’ series showcases the most exciting play for each game of the MLB season as selected by MLB Network. Available following every game day beginning at 12pm EST through midnight, the series captures fans’ attention in the now. “Our view on the space is that if we design products to connect fans to things they love, we can establish a more wholesome view on how crypto-currency and NFTs are depicted,” says Lawin. “The types of products that we are creating are geared toward a lower-priced, widely-distributed availability.”
Recently released on October 26, the signature ‘2021 MLB Icon’ Packs feature top MLB players. With each pack containing three player NFTs across five rarities, custom visualizations, season statistics and unique finishes will encapsulate the growing evolution into digital commodities. Only 25,000 2021 MLB Icon Packs will be created and released.
“We will continue to drop limited-edition items and allow others to own rare scarce products,” says Lawin. “Yet we want the broadest group of people possible who can collect those assets and be a part of the community.”
The partnership’s ‘Uncut Diamonds’ series is an early collectible of the sport’s future stars. Featuring 2021 top-rated prospects, one player will be featured from each team. For many of these players, it’s their first time being featured as a collectible of any kind. Candy supports the authenticated experience with a digital photo and signature.
“This series allows fans to see young prospects coming up through the ranks and to learn more about them,” says Kenny Gersh, MLB’s executive vice-president, business development. “You can follow different players through the years and as their stardom grows, you’ll be able to say you learned about them early on. It allows yet another way for fans to follow.”
Unlocking future opportunities
The launching of the company’s beta platform enables fans and collectors to directly access Candy’s digital collectibles. Throughout the 2021 MLB Postseason and World Series, the company revealed unique products that capture the special nature of digital collectibles. Additionally, the company will roll out additional features and functionality to boost user experience. For example, if a consumer is a big fan of Aaron Judge, they can collect a Judge NFT. During the following season, that NFT will change with his current performance, thus updating his stats.
Make no mistake: the company is not purely held to the digital realm. Through the opportunity that lies with Fanatics, digital and physical assets can be intertwined and evolve over time. Candy, Fanatics and MLB are working on new ways to celebrate that fandom. For instance, when a fan buys an official jersey from Fanatics, the trio plans for a digital jersey to accompany that purchase. This raises the opportunity for additional benefits including tokens, exclusive assets and different perspectives.
“The entire concept is taking things in the digital world and having fans connect through physical products, say buying a jersey or catching a foul ball, and bringing that to a younger audience,” said Gersh. “We can reward fans for taking in the physical experience by providing them digital offerings.”
These rewards can take on many different forms. With many different concepts in the works, the opportunities to integrate the physical and digital worlds are endless.
For example, if there’s a home run that’s hit to a specific section of the stadium, fans in that section, and only those fans, can receive an NFT version of that home run ball. Additionally, with the league-wide initiative engulfing digital ticketing, the opportunity lies for developing NFTs and digital souvenirs for fans who want to have records of their tickets. This also includes the company’s Stadium Series, where fans can unlock limited-edition souvenirs from unique ballpark perspectives.
The opportunities for evolution within the country’s historic sport are immense. The crossroads of different experiences and perspectives allow for new content to be digested like never before.
“We are really happy with this partnership and this is just the tip of the iceberg for what will come down the road,” said Gersh. “The community will end up driving a lot of the direction where we go. We want people to consume these NFTs because it brings them a sense of connection with a particular team or player or memory.
“The world is moving toward a world of digital ownership and authenticity. It’s our job to unlock those different ways to interact with our fans.”