The ever-popular NFT collectibles marketplace made a splash at the NBA’s annual offseason showcase in Las Vegas.
Back In January, there were just 5,000 people that owned an NBA Top Shot highlight “Moment” in their collections. In the seven months since then, the NFT platform powered by Dapper Labs has grown to 600,000 Moment owners and counting, a staggering rise that’s included some peaks and valleys along the way.
“We’re in as healthy a place as we’ve been, in that the people that are coming in right now are coming in for the right reasons,” said Jacob Eisenberg, Top Shot’s community lead. “They’re coming in because they love Top Shot, not because they heard influencers tell them they were gonna get rich off it.”
Eisenberg is standing in front of Top Shot’s kiosk inside Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center at the NBA’s Summer League, the digital brand’s first foray into the physical world.
For three days, Top Shot sold dynamically minted Moments of action that in some cases happened just hours before, limited to 10 sets of $5 Moments per day, to thousands of fans 100% in-person.
If 3,000 people bought 10 Moments each, then there would only be 30,000 of that Moment.
“You need to buy it here today, or you’ll never have the opportunity again. There’s something really powerful about that,” Eisenberg said. “It brings fans closer to the action that they’re watching in person, closer to their favorite players, and closer to their favorite teams.”
This reporter purchased 10 Moments on Monday featuring a second-year player from the game between the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic from that day. The process of creating in-season Moments that would normally take weeks or months was digitally delivered the next day.
“We are excited to bring fans closer to the game through unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou. “This summer’s awesome activations are just some of the first glimpses into what’s planned as Top Shot becomes a currency for NBA fans around the world.”
Dapper Labs looked at wildly successful games like Pokemon Go and how they were able to mobilize people both digitally and encourage them to congregate in person en masse.
For NBA Top Shot, there was no better place to test this concept out than at Summer League, basketball’s version of a souped-up music festival, with everyone’s favorite rookies playing at two different venues for several hours a day over the course of more than a week.
“You have tens of thousands of NBA junkies walking through the overpasses between Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack and see NBA Top Shot catch their eye with a big, flashy banner,” Eisenberg said. “There’s something really powerful about that. It brings fans closer to the action that they’re watching in person.”
These were fans that Dapper accumulated during the pandemic, where every interaction was digital and online. This was the first time where this passionate NFT-based community was able to gather live and in public.
“What’s awesome is we’ve turned casual NBA heads into diehard fans, and we’ve turned people who didn’t care about the NBA into casual fans,” Eisenberg said. “Now collectors who six months ago maybe didn’t know what Summer League was are actually coming to Summer League during a pandemic to watch and to be part of the movement to buy the first Top Shot IRL Moments.”
This is a proof of concept that was shown to players, fans and executives from all 30 teams in attendance.
After finishing his purchase of Top Shot Moments on Monday, Sacramento Kings minority partner Chris Kelly, who was also Facebook’s first-ever general counsel, was very much a believer in the exclusivity of the activation, where you can only purchase these Moments at the kiosk.
“I think it’s gonna be enormously successful,” Kelly told Boardroom. “And I do think it’s going to be replicated in arenas. I think you’re going to see this be a common feature, experimented at least, in NBA arenas throughout the league.”
The Kings are one of at least 10 teams interested in bringing Top Shot or similar activations into their buildings.
“There’s been no shortage of inbound interest,” Eisenberg said.
A major goal for Dapper Labs and Top Shot is driving new user activation; bringing new collectors into the fold to buy Moments. And when you have a flashy user experience like the kiosk in Vegas, that’s where you build excitement, buzz, and FOMO among basketball fans who may not have known what a non-fungible token really was.
For Eisenberg and the Top Shot team, this is likely just the beginning of a whole world of IRL activations, growing the brand with collectors who stuck with the company since its humble beginnings.
“People that are on Top Shot today, they love both the collecting and what we’re doing in the innovative space with sports collectibles,” he said.
“It’s truly bringing the world closer together through common fandom.”