We are reading an awful lot of those weird "Fintech" buzzwords in the news for quite some time now. Blockchain. Cryptocurrency. Tokens. NFT. What does it all mean? Specifically, what does it all mean for tennis? We have tried to tie it all together in an effort to make this new world a little more palatable for you. 

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TNNS was co-founded by Tsol Gervorkian and his partner Nick Williams. Tsol, former Touring Pro and Captain of the Armenian Davis Cup team, is Director of Tennis at New York's McCarren Tennis Center. Nick is Hong Kong-based Director for GeBeCert, an anti counterfeit software business.

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TNNS Tokens - Innovative Blockchain Technology
The Race to Bring Tennis Into the 21st Century

By Rich Neher

Hmmm. Are we not already in the 21st century? From a calendar point of you, certainly yes. However, if you compare tennis with a whole lot of other sports, probably not. How about a quick look at other popular sports to see what century they are in already?

THE BASICS

We have to look no further than the NFL. Some of their players have recently requested to be paid in Bitcoin. There are any numbers of reasons why players are looking for alternative ways to be renumerated. A big one is the inflationary tendencies of the dollar compared to the decreasing inflation rate of Bitcoin. (ledger.com)

Ledger is a fast-growing company developing security and infrastructure solutions for cryptocurrencies as well as blockchain applications for individuals and companies. They are explaining why the use of cryptocurrency in sports betting makes more sense than regular (fiat) currencies. Not only does opening an account with a payment processor require cumbersome verifying of your identity, but payments are often delayed and the fees can be hefty on both deposits and cashouts. "In a world where blockchain transactions take between a few seconds to a few minutes, you shouldn’t have to wait for up to a week until you can spend your winnings! By using cryptocurrencies for deposits and withdrawals at sportsbooks, you can achieve faster, safer, and cheaper transactions than with a centralized middleman."

BITCOIN

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that was invented in 2008. Each Bitcoin is basically a computer file that is stored in a 'digital wallet' app on a smartphone or computer. People can send Bitcoins (or parts of one) to your digital wallet, and you can send Bitcoins to other people. Every single transaction is recorded in a public list called the blockchain. (BBC)

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Cryptocurrency is a new form of decentralized digital money, based on so-called blockchain technology. The most popular version of Cryptocurrency is Bitcoin and Ethereum, but there are more than 5,000 different cryptocurrencies in circulation, according to CoinLoreYou can use crypto to buy regular goods and services, although many people invest in cryptocurrencies as they would in other assets, like stocks or precious metals. (Forbes)

BLOCKCHAIN

Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. An asset can be tangible (house, land, cash, car) or intangible (branding, intellectual property, patents, copyrights). Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved. (IBM)

NON-FUNGIBLE TOKENS (NFTs)

In economics, a fungible asset is something with units that can be readily interchanged - like money.

NFTs are "one-of-a-kind" assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property, but they have no tangible form of their own.

The digital tokens can be thought of as certificates of ownership for virtual or physical assets. (BBC)

NFTs (or “non-fungible tokens”) are a special kind of crypto asset in which each token is unique — as opposed to “fungible” assets like Bitcoin and dollar bills, which are all worth exactly the same amount. Because every NFT is unique, it can be used to authenticate ownership of digital assets like artworks, recordings, and virtual real estate or pets.

 

Coinbase writes, "In February 2021, a 10-second video by an artist named Beeple sold online for $6.6 million. Around the same time, Christie’s announced that it would be selling a collage of 5,000 “all-digital” works by the Wisconsin-based artist, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann. It was put on a virtual auction block with a starting price of $100 — and on March 11 it sold for a staggering $69 million. 

Beyond the high prices, there was one other fact that observers found fascinating. In exchange for their money, collectors who buy Beeples don’t receive any physical manifestation of the artwork. Not even a framed print. What they do get is an increasingly popular kind of crypto asset called an NFT — short for non-fungible token. 

Each Beeple piece is paired with a unique NFT — a token attesting that each owner’s version is the real one. “We are in a very unknown territory,” Christie’s contemporary art specialist Noah Davis told Reuters. “In the first 10 minutes of bidding we had more than a hundred bids from 21 bidders and we were at a million dollars.”

Here is an interesting article about NFTs and intellectual property: "NFTs, Intellectual Property, and What It Really Means to Own a Digital Kitty."

Coinbase is an American cryptocurrency exchange platform, a remote company without physical headquarters.

TENNIS TRYING TO CATCH UP

There are several companies with blockchain-based business models working in the tennis space already. The majority of them, like TokenStars, operating as talent management platforms. (We'll talk about TNNS further down in this article because they are a standalone platform with a unique business model.)

TokenStars connects "rising talents and PRO-stars with their fans." So far they have signed up more than 25 professionals and another 25 rising athletes to their lineup, mainly from tennis, football, and poker. Their Advisory Board includes Tommy Haas, Cedric Pioline, and Martina Hingis. The company is owned by Russian blockchain entrepreneur Pavel Stukolov who "plans to find and fund tomorrow’s tennis stars through a blockchain-based digital platform that will allow fans and others to invest in promising juniors roughly akin to the way they might invest in a racehorse or a Silicon Valley startup." (breakermag.com)

Coindesk reported in 2019 already that Serena Williams had revealed in an Instagram post that she is an investor in cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.

Serena's VC firm Serena Ventures – which was secretly founded in 2014 – lists firms, including Coinbase and startups in areas such as fitness, clothing, food and women’s health and community. Coindesk writes, "The Coinbase investment may not be such a surprise, as Williams’ husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, was an early backer of the exchange through his venture capital firm, Initialized Capital."

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Photo: Serena Williams

Decrypt Media wrote March 13. 2021, "NFTs are not new in the sports arena. Some of the most successful have been launched by the National Basketball League via a collectors' site called NBA Top Shot. To date, collectors have spent $330 million on 10-15 second clips from games on Top Shot; an official game highlight from a star player can go for up to $200,000. And last week, National Football League star Rob Gronkowski minted a collection of Super Bowl NFTs.

Decrypt Media is an independent media brand covering stories from business, politics, art, culture, technology, education, and the latest news.

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SportTechie Daily reported April 21: The technologies are poised to change everything from venue operations to fan engagement and beyond. The WWE recently released its first set of NFTs to coincide with WrestleMania, and a trio of star NFL quarterbacks—Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning—are among the latest athletes to join the marketplace.

The newsletter also had this little piece of information: 

CryptoKickers Signs Wilson Chandler to Virtual Shoe Deal

 

NBA veteran Wilson Chandler has signed a virtual shoe deal with CryptoKickers, a virtual fashion startup selling digital sneakers as NFTs. The footwear collectibles are verified on the Ethereum blockchain. 

 

Chandler, who played 13 years in the NBA and currently plays in the Chinese Basketball Association, is releasing 21 pairs of his digital shoes to the CryptoKickers’ website today. The shoe NFTs come in three different styles—the DePaul, New York, and Benton Harbor—representing Chandler’s time at DePaul University, the New York Knicks, and his hometown in Michigan. 

 

The individually numbered sneaker collectibles will be priced starting at 0.021 ETH (about $45 USD). Since launching in March, CryptoKickers has sold more than 300 pairs of virtual shoes. One pair sold as high as 1.26 ETH (~$2,600.)

 

Chandler will donate proceeds he receives from his virtual shoes toward buying physical shoes for youth in his hometown. “I think these guys are positioned to build a Nike-sized fashion business for virtual worlds,” Chandler said in a statement. 

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The latest arrival on the NFT scene is American tour player Jessica Pegula. Women's Tennis Blog writes, "​The 33rd-ranked WTA player released her own NFT digital trading cards, i.e. five different limited-edition NFT trading cards. Each card is digitally hand-signed and numbered by the 2021 Australian Open quarterfinalist. You can collect up to five different trading cards to complete the Jessica Pegula Limited Edition Set. Two of the cards in the set are exclusive 1 of 1’s, and three of the cards are rare 1 of 3 editions."

And then there is the story about 20-year-old ITF and WTA player Oleksandra Oliynykova from Croatia. Decrypt reported that Oliynkova is auctioning off part of her arm as an NFT. "The tennis professional, who has an International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tour Ranking of 30 and Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranking of 649, is offering one prospective buyer the lifetime rights to part of her right arm. To be more specific, it’s the section on the inside of her upper arm just above the elbow; a total area of 15cm x 8cm (approximately 6 inches x 3 inches.)"

The writer continues, "That may sound like a small patch of real estate to anyone unfamiliar with the world of sports merchandising. But in the tennis world, that part of the body amounts to a billboard in Times Square; the winning bidder could re-sell it, leave it blank, or commission a tattoo or a piece of body art on that area."

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Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su

Oliynkova is hardly the first tennis personality taking advantage of NFTs. No other than former superstar Caroline Wozniacki launched her own crypto token in 2018. Reuters reported, "Tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki signed a deal with a Singaporean company to launch her own crypto token on Thursday, with the firm saying it hoped ex-soccer star Michael Owen or boxer Manny Pacquiao would be the first to sell such a token next year.

Global Crypto Offering Exchange (GCOX) lists Pacquiao and Owen as private investors in the company, alongside a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

To buy the celebrity tokens, prospective buyers must first acquire GCOX’s own tokens called ACM, the sale of which has only recently started. Lin declined to say how many ACM tokens had been sold, but said “in theory we are trying to raise $300-600 million

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Photo: Oleksandra Oliynkova

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Each card has its own auction, sold to the highest bidder. Because of Pegula’s love for dogs, proceeds from the auction will go to “A Landing Paw” non-profit organization. 

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FAN TOKENS

Fan Tokens are digital assets that represent your ownership of a voting right and give you access to earn unique club-specific experiences and rewards. Fan Tokens are fungible, meaning that like other cryptocurrencies, they can be exchanged for other ‘goods’, such as exclusive merchandise, tickets, VIP experiences, etc. (SOCIO)

MORE ABOUT FAN TOKENS

Ledger stated that recently that a new trend in professional football has emerged as some of the most popular teams have started to issue so-called fan tokens. "Like cryptocurrencies, fan tokens are registered on a blockchain and can be traded, which gives them a real-world value. Furthermore, it gives sports fans the opportunity to get involved in their favorite team’s life."

Just one Fan Token gives you the right to vote in every poll that the club publishes. Your Fan Tokens are not ‘spent’ on a poll, meaning that your supply of Fan Tokens will never decrease no matter how many times you vote. You can increase your influence, by purchasing more Fan Tokens, but each club will impose a voting cap, meaning that one person can never ‘control’ the vote, even if they hold large numbers of Fan Tokens. (SOCIO)

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TNNS.PRO

While companies like TokenStars monetize celebrities and future stars on the blockchain, TNNS has eyed a different niche market in the world of tennis: Recreational club players, non-professional leagues, and tournaments. TNNS Pro is the first company that will reward non-professional tennis leagues and tournaments with innovative blockchain technology that will bring value to tennis players.

TNNS Token Co-Founder and CEO Tsolak (Tsol) Gevorkian is a man wearing many hats. According to his LinkedIn profile, besides running TNNS, he is CEO of Gebe Cert (Authentication Technology), Director of Tennis at the McCarren Tennis Center, USA Partner of Mobisport, and Managing Owner of Tennis Management Group.

 

Tsol says, "Businesses in many different industries have always used coupons and vouchers to increase business, or reward users or customers. The idea was to create loyalty programs to incentivize customers to return to the business, organization, or club. TNNS is revolutionizing Tennis by creating a token system to create loyalty for clubs and associations at no cost for the business by providing a way to incentivize customers to return and use the club facilities more often."

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The way he explains it you can compare TNNS tokens with airline miles or stamps on a coffee card. "But our token system does much more than provide free coffee for every 10 stamps. We are providing up to 5 billion free tokens to clubs, associations, tennis organizations." Clubs and associations joining the TNNS network will be given a supply of TNNS Tokens for free. Tsol: "At this time, clubs can reward players in leagues and tournaments with our tokens. They can also use it for discounts on products, services, and events."

 

At the same time, Tsol and his team are working behind the scene on adding the tokens to a crypto exchange. Once that happens, you will be able to use TNNS tokens for payment for discounted apparel and sports products, discounted event tickets, exchange for other cryptocurrencies (like bitcoin), and much more.

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"We are in talks with major brands that want to increase their business by offering product discounts with our tokens. We have also developed a system for event organizers to accept TNNS tokens from people purchasing tickets. As a holder of TNNS tokens, you will be able to purchase such tickets, get discounts on products, and eventually you will also be able to convert the tokes back to U.S. dollars."

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TNNS Pro Announces Steve Nash as Global Brand Ambassador

The announcement came on April 6. Eight-time NBA All-Star, Steve Nash has been named the newest TNNS Global Brand Ambassador. Nash is a Canadian professional basketball coach and former player who is currently the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Nash played 18 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 while playing for the Suns, becoming just the 10th player in NBA history to win the award in consecutive seasons. 

"Steve is a remarkable talent and we know he is only going to continue to rise to new heights," said Tsolak Gevorkian. "When we first approached Steve about a partnership nearly a month ago, we were drawn to his confidence and fierce ambition as much as his power to hold nothing back. He loves to express himself with sports and is a constant inspiration to his fans on living boldly. It's that authenticity and unapologetic spirit that we admire, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the TNNS family.”

“TNNS Pro will not only change the way we think about tennis but TNNS Pro is also building a better future for the sport,” said Steve Nash.

Tso has this message for all TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS readers. “We welcome all clubs, associations, and federations to partner with us. We want to make tennis more exciting and modernize the way we reward players”.

Club owners, tennis directors, tournament directors can contact info@tnns.pro for more information.

TNNS website

It is pretty clear to me that blockchain in sports is here to stay. And the way it's going, we will likely see the trend continue. Ledger said it best: "Boosting fan engagement and finding new sources of revenue is too lucrative a deal to forego the issuance of fan tokens. Other blockchain use cases that arise in the future might include a drug test registry or broadcasting sporting events over a decentralized streaming portal!"

I think we are well on our way for tennis to stand with two feet (and racquet) in the 21st century!

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