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Contesting fan tokens under crypto-capitalism: how sport NFT furthers the hypercommodification of fandom

Chen Chen (University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA)

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

ISSN: 1464-6668

Article publication date: 19 February 2024

83

Abstract

Purpose

Given the rise of sport non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and sponsorships from cryptocurrency companies in the sport industry during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, this paper aims to critically frame the partnerships between cryptocurrency and sport by exploring the reception of fan tokens amongst supporters of three English Premier League clubs: Manchester City, Everton and Crystal Palace.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing upon the emerging critical scholarship on cryptocurrency and the political economy of professional football, this study uses digital ethnography in an attempt to understand the major themes emanating from the online forum discussions amongst fans in response to the issuance of fan tokens by the aforementioned three clubs, among other types of partnerships with crypto companies.

Findings

The supporters’ critical deliberations revolved around the contradictions of fan tokens (as a means for supposed “fan engagement” or for financial speculation) and the utility of cryptocurrency for the public. These reactions in turn showcase a larger tension underlying the financially unstable professional football industry: the contest between the owners and the fan bases over the exchange value (for profit) and use value (for community) of the clubs.

Originality/value

This paper is one of the first studies to adopt a critical framework to examine the emerging partnerships between sports and cryptocurrency companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provides one of the first in-depth analyses of the critical receptions of sport NFTs amongst sport fans. While contributing to the literature on fan activism/protest in the context of the commercialization and commodification of sport, the paper also raises new questions on the responsible use of cryptocurrency/NFT in sport.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank journalist Rania Khalek for her excellent reporting on cryptocurrency. The author also appreciates the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive feedback that helped strenghten the paper.

Citation

Chen, C. (2024), "Contesting fan tokens under crypto-capitalism: how sport NFT furthers the hypercommodification of fandom", International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSMS-03-2023-0057

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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