Having recently signed deals with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, the Fantastec app not only provides clubs with an opportunity to increase fan engagement, but also to enter the blockchhain sector.
We spoke to the firm’s Product & Creative Development Partner at Fantastec Sports Technology Simon Woollard, who discussed the importance of partnerships between clubs and the app, as well as what innovations users can look forward to.
InsiderSport: Can you tell us Fantastec app and how it can increase fan engagement?
Simon Woollard: We are coming at it from the new perspective of global fandom. Gone are the days where the majority of a club’s fans lived in the neighbourhood; around 99 per cent of a club’s fan base are overseas. SWAP allows users to receive exclusive content on authenticated collectables from the clubs like never before. They can also use these collectibles to connect with fellow fans from around the world, meaning they can feel closer than ever to the clubs they love. Fans cannot always get to games due to how far away they live, and SWAP aims to bring them closer with cool content that any fan can own.
InsiderSport: How much of an affirmation is it for the work of Fantastec that the likes of Arsenal, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have gotten on board?
Simon Woollard: The teams have a good global footprint and for us that’s great because we now have a footprint in England, Germany and Spain. Each of those particular clubs, they all have an inherently progressive approach to innovation and are always looking for ideas to help their global fans.
Our approach to collectables is very different to the traditional approach that you see with collectables. All of our content is created at-club, so it is original and authentic. We are not shipping JPGs that a million other people have already had – this is a mint from the club to the fans. We want to give this content to people who really follow the club.
To be able to provide all of your players for content production at your club is quite a big challenge. All these three clubs were prepared to do that which makes them pioneers. It is not to say that others aren’t but we were doing something in a very tight timescale.
InsiderSport: Are you able to reveal any future innovations for the app, following the new partnerships?
Simon Woollard: It has barely been 50 days since we launched but there have been over 100,000 collectibles acquired across 155 countries. This is about building a global community of sports fans who can trade with trust, security and privacy. To have touchpoints in so many countries is amazing. We have already topped the sports app download market in the UK ahead of Sky Bet and Manchester United which is impressive for a start-up.
This is really just the start – we are ambitious and there’s a lot of work to do. We are ready to improve the app. It doesn’t have all the features we wanted but it is one of the only apps that has a working blockchain background on the market.
InsiderSport: How can the app help bridge the gap between football clubs and the blockchain sector?
Simon Woollard: Blockchain democratises the access and sharing of value in the same way the internet democratised the access and sharing of information. Cryptocurrency has led the vanguard of blockchain but the point of it is that it allows things to be protected and secure.
If you take SWAP, it is a unique, irrefutable, non-fungible record of an asset. This asset can be fully trusted as the blockchain can prove its scarcity and it can prove it’s protected. It cannot be manipulated or changed, and you can follow the ownership of the asset right back to its origin.
On SWAP, we film the players doing the digital autographs. A lot of time you may be on the other side of the world and see a scribble on a piece of paper and you don’t know if it’s real or if it’s just a copy. There’s no more value to it than if someone took a photo of a ten pound note and told you it was a £10 note.
Within the blockchain infrastructure, these collectibles are irrefutable, non-divisible assets and it opens up a whole new way of trading so anyone in the world can acquire something with inherent value and retain that value.
We worked with the company that developed blockchain for the Bank of England, so the clubs could see that there was also a level of protection that they wouldn’t normally expect of a start-up.
InsiderSport: What methods are you taking to ensure the app continues to grow?
Simon Woollard: There are billions of soccer and sports fans. No matter what reason they follow it, they can always get closer to teams. If you’re from China or South America and you follow teams in Europe, that distance effects your bond and you end up following more than one team and there’s no direct reward for loyalty. Not in the same way of when you go to a ground and feel the atmosphere and watch your team play.
So, if we can help fans feel closer and they can get some kind of value from it then there is a huge opportunity there. These are collectibles and people recognise that, but they are more than that – it is about creating an ecosystem of reciprocal value with complete trust, privacy and security which you don’t get in centralised systems.
For clubs to reinvent the way that they work is part of that reciprocal value. You follow us – we will give you something unique. It is about us giving you something of value; that will retain its value; and can also be exchanged for something in the future that is equally valuable.
You may want to buy match tickets, download content or have money off club merchandise, being able to be rewarded for showing loyalty is part of the longer-term gain and this system is really designed for that.
We are very ambitious; we don’t know how big it can get but we know we are building an ecosystem of tremendous scale and with robustness to it.