Australian basketball media company, Basketball Forever is using NFTs to massively increase fan engagement.

Australian media company Basketball Forever has announced a nonfungible token (NFT) project titled Hoop Hounds, which seeks to increase NBA fan engagement and provide substantial real-world utility for the tokens. 

Critics of NFTs have consistently taken aim at the supposedly ineffectual nature of the tokens, with “right-click save” memes doing the rounds. However, more recently there has been an uptick in utility-focused NFT projects, such as the  Bored Ape Yacht Club and Top Shot, where holders are provided exclusive access to real-world events and products.

Basketball Forever, the NBA-focused subsidiary of sports media company Forever Network, has developed high levels of engagement on social media in Australia over the past four years and is trying to enhance that approach with NFTs.

Basketball Forever will offer a total of 8,888 different “hounds” — various basketball and NBA personalities depicted as different styles of animated canines — each with unique traits and differing levels of rarity. The company expects the NFTs to be available within the next six weeks.

In an interview with Cointelegraph, Basketball Forever founder Alex Sumsky, said that his company was going “all in” on NFTs — saying that the technology is more than just a token tied to a JPG and allows organizations to provide innovative ways to increase user engagement and provide fans with real utility.

Users who mint Hoop Hound NFTs, for example, receive real-world fan memorabilia and collectibles, regardless of where they live.

“In phase 1 of the roadmap, users will receive physical items, merchandise and memorabilia that directly relate to the unique trait of the NFTs that they own.”

If a user mints a hound that’s wearing particular items, they earn the ability to claim the corresponding physical items in real life. Certain traits and hounds will be linked to various NBA season triggers that would see certain holders sent to NBA games including flights and accommodation.

Sumsky added that the physical merchandise and NBA experiences offered to users are just Part 1 of the project.

“The bigger play is phase 2 of our roadmap — the ownership of the hound gives users access to daily pools of merchandise, memorabilia and cash prizes that all play out in the form of a fan engagement app,” he said.

Sumsky explained that Basketball Forever has already run a non-blockchain-based version of the app, called V.O.A.T, which saw high rates of engagement. The app users login each day to answer five questions about NBA matters and are then entered to win prizes.

Moving to NFTs provides a lot more opportunities, he said.

“NFTs and digital providence give companies and organizations like Forever Network the ability to learn more about what our users are looking for when it comes to engaging with the sport they love, but more importantly, it allows us to streamline delivery of real-life items and experiences.”

Related: NFT LA: Attract the mainstream, focus on Web3 and use cases

NFTs are now generating mainstream interest with a yearly market report from NonFungible finding that the total value of all NFT transactions worldwide surpassed more than $17 billion in 2021, up from $82.5 million in 2020. The report also pointed out that “NFT” was selected as Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021.

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