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Australian Open offers ‘art ball’ NFTs infused with real-time match data

Tennis tournament lets fans purchase tokens that relate to a specific part of the court and launches metaverse experience.

10 January 2022 Steve McCaskill
Australian Open offers ‘art ball’ NFTs infused with real-time match data

Australian Open

  • Australian Open offers 6,776 ‘art balls’
  • Each NFT represents a section of court
  • 11 owners will receive match balls and certification

Australian Open organisers are offering tennis fans the opportunity to purchase non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that automatically update with metadata collected from the first Grand Slam of the season.

The tournament has partnered with Decentraland, Run It Wild and Metakey to create 6,776 ‘art balls’ produced from an algorithmic combination of different colours, patterns and textures. An additional 22 ‘AO Legend’ and 169 ‘Artist Series’ balls will feature unique designs made by legacy and NFT artists.

Each ball represents a 19cm by 19cm plot of tennis court surface randomly assigned when each NFT is minted. Every time a winning shot lands in that plot during any match at the 2022 Australian Open, the relevant NFT will be updated in real time with match and ball tracking data.

There are ‘fungible’ rewards too. Should any of the 11 championship points land on a particular plot, the corresponding NFT owner will be given the tennis ball used in a display case and a certificate of authenticity. Art ball owners will also have the opportunity to gain limited edition wearables, merchandise and other benefits in the future. All parties involved have said they plan to offset the carbon emissions generated in creating the NFTs.

The year’s first tennis Grand Slam is also launching a metaverse experience on Decentraland’s platform. Users will be able to look around a digital recreation of the Australian Open’s grounds in Melbourne and speak to players and other fans.

“With this next wave of technology, global tennis fans will have the opportunity to be part of the 2022 Australian Open in a way never before available,” said tournament director Craig Tiley.

“The AO has always been seen as one of the most innovative sporting events in the world and this project is just another example of our team pushing the boundaries to provide our fans with better access and engagement.”

Both initiatives reflect the Australian Open and Tennis Australia’s ambition of using digital technology to engage fans and drive growth. The latter has invested in various tech startups, while Tiley confirmed to SportsPro last year that the organisation was exploring commercial possibilities around NFTs and cryptocurrencies.

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