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ICC, NEAR & Wincast Partner in Web3 Cricket World Cup Prediction Game

Cricket is the world's second most popular sport, and NEAR have pounced on a deal with the ICC until 2025

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Introduction 🔌🔧

In another week where SBF’s FTX trial continues to dominate headlines, there is continued energy and investment in what I think will spike the next wave of interest and use cases in Web3: Consumer-facing propositions. 

Gaming and Loyalty are the most relatable when it comes to entertainment — but outside of that, there is a lot of momentum in finance when it comes to stablecoins, CBDCs, ETFs and such.

It’s a fascinating time because everyone has now heard about crypto, meaning the next frenzy from an institutional and retail perspective is less likely to be about speculation.

Before you read the newsletter…

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ICC, NEAR & Wincast Partner in Web3 Cricket World Cup Prediction Game

The Sporting Crypto Newsletter is supported by The HBAR Foundation.

Cricket is the second most popular sport on the planet.

The India-Pakistan match during this year’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup reportedly had over 35 million viewers. 

Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are 2.5 billion cricket fans.

The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in 2022 for example generated 6.65 billion views across all ICC platforms, with a global TV audience of 1.28 billion+.

The numbers are staggering.

But when it comes to Web3, Cricket hasn’t had the most successful journey.

Last month, the Dream11-backed Rario’s founders were let go and earlier this year, Sequuoia-Backed Fanclash laid off 75% of its workforce, although that was more in relation to mobile gaming bans rather than the Web3 market.

The shining light is probably FanCraze Cricket, built on FLOW, who raised $100m in March 2022.

It is still the 3rd in volume on the FLOW blockchain over the last 30 days, and in terms of unique buyers has over 8,000 in the last 30 days, more than double that of the equivalent NFL video moments product, NFL ALL DAY.

Since its inception, FanCraze have seen $16m+ in volume and almost 50k unique buyers.

And last month, NEAR, the blockchain, partnered with the ICC (International Cricket Council) in a multiyear partnership to ‘boost global fan engagement through Web3’.Details are still a bit sparse, but one of the things that is live is a game called Captain’s Call, which was launched during the Cricket World Cup 2023, and has seen 100s of thousands of users already. Discussed in this Newsletter:

🏏 ICC x NEAR📱 Captain’s Call - the Web3 Prediction Game🧠 Concluding Thoughts and Analysis


In late September 2023, the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Layer 1 blockchain NEAR announced a multi-year partnership - to boost ‘fan engagement through Web3’. 

They became the ICC’s official Blockchain Partner until the end of 2025.

The press release said NEAR would ‘assist in increasing fan engagement, bringing the sport to new audiences and providing long-term value to fans’.

The partnership launched with the creation of a pre-match strategy game called Captain’s Call ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, powered by NEAR’s Blockchain Operating System (B.O.S.).

Post World Cup, both sides will work together in partnership to develop long-term Web3 use cases that will ‘celebrate and encourage loyalty to the sport’.

The overarching goal is to develop a fan passport that allows fans to record their actions and memories, across the cricket ecosystem, both on and offline.

Finn Bradshaw, Head of Digital at the ICC, said:

“We are excited to embark on this partnership with NEAR Foundation and to use their technology and network of talent to create better and deeper fan engagement around the globe. We are looking forward to exploring ways in which we can use new technology to create lasting, valuable experiences for our fans.”

Chris Donovan, CEO of the NEAR Foundation said:

This is one of our biggest partnership announcements to date and solidifies our reputation as a go to blockchain technology provider in the sporting world. Given the immense size and popularity of cricket, the NEAR ecosystem will potentially be exposed to hundreds of millions of cricket fans who will have the opportunity to learn about NEAR Foundation’s mission of increasing the adoption of an open web, and get the chance to interact with Web3 use cases built on the Blockchain Operating System. We look forward to opportunities that this mutually beneficial agreement will bring to cricket fans and to playing a key role in using Web3 to make the world of sport more inclusive and exciting for everyone.”

NEAR have been one of the biggest spenders in the sports market over the last 18 months.

They have partnered with the likes of SailGP, who changed their ruleset to allow for a fan-owned team, in the form of a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation).

As well as that, they have struck deals with the likes of Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) and collaborated with the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) to produce a Web3 and blockchain-focused workshop.

📱 Captain’s Call - the Web3 Prediction Game

The partnership between ICC and NEAR Foundation begins with a prediction game, Captain’s Call, where users are challenged to create winning combinations across the three facets of cricket — batting, bowling and fielding. 

The game is linked to real-life events, and as they unfold, the team’s performance on the pitch directly impacts a user’s score.

There is a leaderboard for users to see where they are ranked and weekly winners are awarded prizes including match tickets, exclusive events, men’s CWC merchandise and digital ownable content.

Notably, the game is embedded in the ICC World Cup site, and not a standalone web app.

Fans are prompted to pick their team, and then craft their strategy.

Depending on how the real-life Cricket match transpires, fans score contingent on the strategy they fielded (pun intended?). 

Fans can input their email to create some continuity to their engagement, beyond a specific Cricket match. On the back end, users are given a wallet on the NEAR blockchain, which acts as a user account.

To create this, NEAR and ICC have tapped up Wincast, as a B2B gaming partner working alongside NEAR and ICC to facilitate Captain’s Call.

Their focus is to onboard users, and then slowly introduce technology that can also incorporate live video broadcasts, socials, and competitive entertainment experiences as the teams work together through the length of the partnership.

🧠 Concluding Thoughts and Analysis

I was lucky to speak with Noah Diskin Kline, CEO of Wincast about the partnership.

Two key areas really interested me in what these brands want to do together:

  1. Interoperability

  2. Meeting fans where they already are

Per Noah Diskin Kline, CEO of Wincast

Our focus, eventually, is interoperable web3 experiences. A user could be playing Captain's Call, which pushes scores and team affinity on-chain to NEAR and could also use assets from something like FanCraze, which is built on FLOW, as in-game playable powerups. We combine the technology on the back end and make it seamless for fans and enterprises. 

This quote really interests me.

The ability to bring in other ecosystems within Web3 from a specific sport could be a game-changer.

Web3 promises an interoperable future, but so far, when mixed with big IP deals, it’s been siloed. That’s for obvious reasons, of course, but in the future — for sports brands to have a true impact on their fans with this technology that may well have to evolve.

Noah Diskin Kline goes on to say:

“There are so many experiences built across different ecosystems that results in a fragmented UX, and one of the big problems that Wincast solves for rights holders alike is being able to combine them in one space for users. This way, fans are able to reap the maximum benefits of Web3 without being subject to the typical barriers to entry that prevent a quality experience and subsequent mass adoption. We want to meet the fans where they are and give them what they want right off the bat.”

There are many propositions that are trying to create new applications or new platforms.

But unless the proposition is incredibly strong, or there is some perceived value around exclusivity — strongarming a fan into signing up with email and password for something greenfield means you are starting in a deficit.

Even Starbucks allowed users to sign in to Odyssey, their Web3 loyalty app, via their Starbucks login credentials. Even Instagram wanted to have NFTs sold natively in the app… but ended up partnering with NFT creators who were already selling content elsewhere, which never made sense. Nike have .SWOOSH, but their first physical drop TINAJ is being debuted in the SNKRS app.

🎮 Gaming is having a Web3 moment.

Whether it be full-sweeping AAA titles or prediction games that are more rudimentary, but potentially have bigger reach. It is the biggest entertainment industry and the fastest growing one, both in terms of dollar spend and engagement.

Sports and gaming have always been linked at the hip, whether it is those higher fidelity games or not.

And fans want to engage with teams, leagues and sports both during the contest, but also beyond.

Combining this facet, with ‘going to where your audience is’, is smart by Near, ICC and Wincast.

There are a lot of idealists who want to create a completely egalitarian, open-source digital ecosystem where everyone has ownership of their self-sovereign identity and digital content.

But that's not how technology is adopted.

I understand that there are some differences here because Web3 is trying to rewrite a lot more than technological functions, whether it be how finance can operate or how identity functions digitally. But even then, the first steps have to be taken by going to where people are and not trying to force them to use janky UX, whilst making them totally responsible for all of their data and assets online.

What the ICC is doing here is solving an issue that is present when it comes to the intersection of Web3 and sport.

Right now, there are very few-to-no ways that fans can connect every single part of a sports brands’ Web3 ecosystem or portfolio.

There are all these partnerships and rights deals, but there isn't somewhere or something that they can use to connect everything in a seamless way. The touchpoints are disparate and therefore the fan journey is broken.

Traditionally, in Web2, if a brand has a ‘hub’ or loyalty application, they want the traffic to flow through there. For some reason, there’s been a lack of aggregation in Web3 generally, but especially in sports.

Maybe this is because of the regular churn sports brands see in partnerships, but perhaps Web3 needs to take with it what has worked in Web2 more often.

The easiest way to create something that communicates across an entire ecosystem that has different teams and federations, with different compliance processes is *probably* something open-source, perhaps a blockchain.

The user journey in Web3 is interesting, but so is sports as an industry.

The broadcast rights market is turbulent at the moment, especially in football.

It’s made many think about the future business model or models that push sport beyond the current bubble it is in.

Web3 might be one of those facets, alongside gaming, direct-to-fan, fan-lifetime-value, loyalty etc. that could help change this landscape — but it might also be a facet that connects all of the above.

⛓️ So what do blockchains want in sport?

When blockchains are partnering with sports teams, what do they actually want?

Where is the ROI and what does a good value deal look like?

For any blockchain — you want, primarily, two things when you’re engaging in something consumer-facing:

  1. Wallet opens on the blockchain

  2. Transactions on-chain

Beyond that, there are obviously brand equity and marketing aspects to the partnership.

But those two things, wallets being opened and transactions, show usage.

Again, making fans go to a specific portal, therefore, rather than ingraining it into technology that already has millions of users, doesn’t add up.

Of course, it’s not always easy to incorporate nascent technology into a more legacy technology stack, and there may even be compliance concerns, but the future is here, not in a standalone stack, for most brands.

On the blockchain front, the issue is most chains have overpaid for deals, and are only learning now what value looks like in this market, and how deep their engagement should be with the audience.Right now, blockchains are definitely asking for more than previously, to part with their cash.

They want to be ingrained in the strategy and create something beyond just digital content that can be collected.

They are thinking more about the application layer rather than simple Web3 offerings.

Both sides, sports and blockchains, are getting closer to each other in what they actually want from a partnership.

Sports IP wants to engage, and a byproduct of that is network usage on a blockchain if it’s done well. The ‘done well’ part — whether it be loyalty, gaming, or applications — that’s the question mark. The opportunity is vast, but it’s also quite vague.

What will the sticky Web3 applications be that come to the fore over the next 3 years in Sports?

We have clues, but not fully formed answers.

But it seems that every big partnership while the market is depressed moves us a step closer to finding something of more substance in this intersection.

2019-2023 was the experiment, earn and learn phase.

2023 and beyond seems to be a longer-term, strategically focused, interconnected and as Noah puts it: going to where the fan is. 

💡 Sporting Crypto Spotlight - Ep. 7 of the Podcast!

In this episode, I was joined by Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder of BetDEX, Vault and FanDuel Nigel Eccles to discuss Web3 in Sports & Entertainment.

Watch the episode below on YouTube!

Or your podcast player of choice… if you’d prefer not to see our faces!

🍎 Find us on Apple Podcasts here [Link] ✅ or on Spotify here [Link]

More Sports & Web3 Stories

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  • New OneFootball CEO Patrick Fischer joined the StreamTime Podcast to discuss the challenging 18 months its faced, including their Web3 difficulties (Read more here)

  • MeetKai and the Charlotte Hornets Engage Sports Fans with Virtual Store (Read more here)

  • E.ON Energy Says Veloce Partnership Key To Promote Decarbonised Future (Read more here)

  • Crypto Game Upland Raises $7 Million Ahead of Ethereum Token Launch (Read more here)

  • RTFKT x Nike DUNK GENESIS Sneakers Begin Forging (Read more here) 

General ‘Stuff’ that Could Impact You

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  • Insomnia Labs Launches ‘Loyalty+’ Program (Read more here)

  • Forge raises $11m to unlock rewards for gamers (Read more here)

  • BAYC Creator Yuga Labs Successfully Restructures to Prioritize Metaverse Development (Read more here)

  • NFT Creator Royalties Are Broken—Yuga Labs and Magic Eden Join Group Trying to Fix Them (Read more here)

  • Reddit to end Ethereum-based Community Points (Read more here)

  • Some FTX creditor claims rise above 50¢ in over-the-counter deals (Read more here)

  • Dr. Disrespect's 'Deadrop' Shooter Unveils Cars, Racing Battles at Vegas Event (Read more here)

  • France’s New NFT Gaming Law (Read more here)

  • Matthew Ball Essay: Esports and the Dangers of Serving at the Pleasure of a King (Read more here)

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