The Australian Open (“AO”) is one of the year’s premier professional tennis events with a global viewership of nearly one billion viewers. This year, in partnership with Tennis Australia and Decentraland, the Australian Open is fully immersing itself in the world of NFTs and the metaverse.
“We had over 812,000 people attend AO2020 – which was a record year for us. Numbers were understandably down in 2021, however we’re seeing fantastic ticket sales in the lead up to AO2022. We’re certainly seeing a drive from Melbournians to return to live sport and we can’t wait to see hundreds of thousands of people back in the precinct enjoying the AO’s festival of sport and entertainment,” said Cedric Cornelis, Tennis Australia Chief Commercial Officer
Metaverses such as Decentraland and Sandbox are virtual worlds where users can own, develop, and interact with digital land through their VR headsets or internet browsers. These crypto and NFT-enabled digital universes are increasing global user engagement by hosting high profile events and experiences. In October, Decentraland hosted the popular Metaverse Festival with musical guests and appearances from Deadmau5, 3LAU, and Paris Hilton.
AO Decentraland follows in these footsteps and will be the first major sporting event hosted in the metaverse. Fans will be able to login to Decentraland and explore a virtual recreation of the AO grounds for the duration of the tournament, which begins Monday January 17th and lasts a fortnight. They will be able to discover the precinct, complete challenges, view historic AO content, and interact with players and other fans, all from their laptops.
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“We view ourselves as an entertainment service first and foremost” said Ridley Plummer, Metaverse and NFT Project Lead at Tennis Australia. “We have revamped the direction of the AO over the last five years. In addition to watching tennis, people come to the AO because they want to eat great food, shop, have drinks with friends, and listen to live music. It has become a festival of entertainment. The natural progression of this in-real-life experience is to recreate it in the metaverse as well, enabling fans to have an even better experience than what they can get onsite.”
AO Art Ball NFT Collection
Additionally, on January 12th, the Australian Open is launching the AO Art Ball NFT collection, comprising 6,776 unique NFTs. The NFT collection implements generative art through the use of an algorithmic combination of different color schemes, patterns and textures, ensuring each AO Art Ball NFT is unique in appearance, down to the fuzz on the ball.
Most interestingly, each Art Ball NFT’s metadata will be linked to a 19-centimeter by 19-centimeter plot of each tennis court surface. If the winning shot from any of the 400 professional matches lands on that plot, the NFT metadata will be updated in real-time to highlight the match information (e.g. match players, round of tournament, match score, and more). When one of the 11 championship points lands on a plot, the corresponding NFT owner can claim and receive the championship point tennis ball from the match in a handcrafted case.
“At the Australian Open, we have the constant willingness to push the boundaries of what a sporting event should be, striving to innovate, expand our existing channels, and increase accessibility of the event to more fans in an engaging way,” commented Cedric. “The metaverse will be of interest to fans who are not engaged in sports but may have other interests, providing an opportunity to diversify beyond the sport of tennis into the realm of tech and innovation.”
The collaboration is an early experiment in how sporting data can be directly integrated into NFTs, while providing a truly immersive experience in the metaverse. This inaugural NFT drop will be followed by other giveaways, NFT drops, events, and merchandising opportunities. The team views this first step as a crucial piece of its larger Web3 strategy in which fans will own various components of a new digitally-native tennis community.
Decentraland has signaled a long-term commitment to working with Tennis Australia and the Australian Open. Decentraland’s Head of Partnerships Adam De Cata said, “Beyond this first NFT drop and metaverse event, we will continue to build digital community around the Australian Open. This genesis collection may serve as a whitelist for future NFTs and experiences. Tennis Australia and the Australian Open are providing an incredible array of resources, assets, and data. Together we are exploring the unknown, and the playbook is actively being written.”