Levelling up fan engagement with Zilliqa

We spoke to Tom Fleetham, Head of Business Development for Sports and Gaming at Zilliqa, about his approach to fan engagement and Zilliqa's plans to build out loyalty and rewards programmes built on Web3 infrastructure.

Levelling up fan engagement with Zilliqa

Zilliqa recently launched a pair of digital asset initiatives with two of its high-profile esports partners, Ninjas in Pyjamas {NIP) and RRQ.

The partnership with NIP saw the launch of a Digital Pyjamas collectible that provides fans of the esports group with access to an exclusive club of asset holders who receive various exclusive benefits, as well as ownership of a digital collectible secured by the Zilliqa blockchain.

RRQ also recently partnered with Zilliqa to launch its blockchain-based membership programme, comprising two digital assets: RRQ King Pass and RRQ Royal Card.

The RRQ King Pass is a blockchain-based digital asset available free-of-charge to existing RRQ members and can be used to access exclusive benefits across all RRQ platforms. The RRQ Royal Card is a new premium membership tier that is limited to 1,000 members, offering access to online and in-person events, discounts, prizes and a physical Royal Box, containing limited edition apparel and exclusive RRQ memorabilia.

The RRQ and NIP digital assets can be traded on the Rialto marketplace - a curated platform for the trading and purchasing of digital collectibles.

This is the first step towards implementing a new, focussed strategy for delivering fan engagement initiatives powered by the Zilliqa blockchain that deliver the benefits of traditional reward and loyalty programmes with all the benefits of Web3 infrastructure.

We spoke to Tom Fleetham, Head of Business Development for Sports and Gaming at Zilliqa, about this new approach to fan engagement and the plan to build out loyalty and rewards programmes built on Web3 infrastructure.

A better way to engage fans with Web3

Tom has a wealth of experience in the sports and entertainment industries, and he believes that there is a powerful opportunity to deliver Web3 fan engagement initiatives that can offer real value to fans around the world.

“I've worked in the sports and entertainment industry for about six years, and in all of the sports companies I worked with, they wanted to find a way to engage and monetise the millions of people that follow them on social media around the world,” Tom says.

“There's a whole new generation who I believe are growing up in a world where they're not going to just naturally support the football team that their dad tells them to and go along on a rainy Tuesday night to stand and watch a 0-0 draw. They're going to have to be engaged in a way that is digital-first in order to build the deep loyalty that many sports organisations currently take for granted.”

Speaking from his personal experience as a fan, Tom says the idea of digital collectibles and tangible rewards are far more enticing than many of the loyalty programmes offered by major sports teams.

“I'm a fan of lots of different teams in lots of different sports. But for the ones that I'm particularly passionate about, I just don't feel rewarded as a fan. I spend £50 a year on a membership and get very little back other than the right to be in a digital queue for hours to buy a ticket.”

“I would much rather spend the same amount on a digital collectable that actually gives me the feeling of being part of an exclusive community, combined with a set of benefits such as access to players, exclusive events, discounts etc.” he adds.

“The thing I'm most excited about is the future of digital collectibles as a better way of engaging the fans around the world who may never physically visit the home of the team they love. By selling tokenised digital assets that come with rewards and access to unique fan experiences, the fan can have more ownership over their relationship with the club. It's more a way of letting them get closer, letting them have a bit more ownership over their membership, not just the one-way traffic we see with Web2 brands dictating how membership works.”

The approach offered by Web3 fan engagement is even more suited to cultivating fans and memberships amongst younger generations, a fact driven home by Tom’s own experience with his family.

“I started working in sports around the same time my eldest son was born. I've realised one of the things that drives me is that I think he's not necessarily going to fall in love with sport in the way that I did. I want him to experience all the benefits I did from playing for a football team and having that connection of going to watch his favourite team with his dad and grandad.”

“Maybe I'm just a pushy boomer dad! But I think that connection is going to be broken unless we can get traditional sports to embrace new technology. So that's been a consistent thread through my career since I started working in sports and entertainment.”

Esports partnerships and global engagement

Tom explains that Zilliqa’s esports partnerships are a great way to attract traditional gamers to WEB3WAR and the other products being developed by Roll1ng Thund3rz, as well as a key part of building out a Web3 fan engagement business incubated within Zilliqa that could apply to a range of industries in future.

“We've got three esports partnerships: RRQ, MAD Lions, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. As we knew we wanted gaming to be a major use case for Zilliqa, we felt that esports was a really great place to build partnerships. People that follow esports are generally tech-savvy and fairly open to the idea of new technology, so it's the perfect audience to complement a blockchain that's incubated a Web3 gaming company like Roll1ng Thund3rz,” Tom says.

“The partnerships give us access to an audience of traditional gamers at which we can market games like WEB3WAR and the future titles that are going to be developed by Roll1ngThund3rz. Those games will all be played by professional players and streamers that are part of our partners’ network. It’s also great to link ourselves to these established brands that are visible and credible in the gaming industry.”

A major component of these partnerships is to deliver the benefits of Web3 to the fans of teams like NIP, MAD Lions, and RRQ. Tom notes that Zilliqa is positioned to offer current and future partners a platform for tailored fan engagement initiatives that deliver powerful utility using blockchain technology.

“Like any consumer brand, these companies are looking at Web3 and trying to work out how this helps to solve their business challenges. We are working with them on a whole host of fan engagement initiatives that are designed to show users and partners how Web3 technology can be used to reward fans more tangibly for the things that they're not normally rewarded for,” Tom says.

“There are millions of esports fans out there who consume content every day. They're engaging on social media all the time. They're talking about their favourite players and teams on WhatsApp all the time. But they can’t go to the stadium or get to any physical event, so they're not really rewarded for that type of fandom. And so what we're looking to do is find ways to reward those types of fans for the stuff that they're doing already.”

A scalable and effective model for fan engagement

Zilliqa’s recent digital collectible and membership initiatives are the foundation for a model that can be applied to many businesses and industries. Tom explains that they are already working with a partner to deliver Web3 fan engagement incentives that deliver better fan experiences across a range of industries.

“The way to think about our approach to fan engagement initiatives is as reward or loyalty schemes that are enhanced by blockchain technology.”

“We’re working with a loyalty platform partner that enables fans to earn points and earn digital assets as rewards. That's how it works in the Web2 world.The Web3 part comes in where those digital assets become NFTs and those points can be converted into fan tokens,” Tom says.

“The vision is that fans continue engaging in the way they are already, and they start getting incentivised to do more of it. In return, they will receive NFTs and fan tokens, and there will also be opportunities to offer them further functionality, whether that's through staking or potentially investing in the future winnings for the team or future winnings for players.”

“That's the long term vision of what we're working towards with NIP and their Digital Pyjamas and RRQ with their King Pass and Royal Card assets - that's the first step,” he adds.

As the number of fans who are using these Web3 features grows, that provides an opportunity to design more tailored initiatives and help the fans and partners work together to deliver rewards that are meaningful and engaging.

“I also see this as us proving a model that can then be taken to traditional sports teams and other consumer brands,” Tom says.

“I think the sports market in particular is crying out for someone to take the lead and show them what a good Web3 fan engagement initiative looks like. And I think because we've got these esports partners, we're really well placed to do that. We can demonstrate a model that actually delivers value to esports partners and then take that to market and grow out from there.”

Zilliqa is perfectly positioned to prove out and deliver a powerful Web3 platform in this vertical due to its approach of identifying and delivering on specific business cases where blockchain technology can deliver real value.

“The Zilliqa network has low transaction fees, high throughput, and it’s scalable and secure. We've got all the advantages of other networks, but we're not taking a grant lottery approach,” Tom says.

“Instead, we're focusing on a small number of key areas where we've identified a business problem, and the fact that we've got partners already in place means we can work really closely with them as we explore this journey together.”