The relationship between fans and the object of their affection—be it a sports team or a band—has traditionally been something of a one-way street. Fans buy tickets and merchandise, the team or band rakes in the cash.
Now a new type of cryptocurrency, the fan token, promises to change the dynamics of that relationship.
What are fan tokens?
Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency designed to provide membership benefits to fandoms of sports teams, bands and other groups. Holders of fan tokens are often entitled to membership perks, such as access to exclusive content, prizes, experiences and the right to vote on club decisions.
Fan tokens provide a little bit of something for everyone. For fans, it’s the chance to determine, in some (often trivial and legally non-binding) way, the future of their favorite sports team or pop star, and speculate on their success in the web3 markets. For the sports team or pop star, it’s free money, baby!
These tokens are everywhere, across sports ranging from soccer to the NFL to cricket. Bands like Portugal. The Man are experimenting with them, too.
The economics of fan tokens are as bizarre as they are volatile, but for some famous people or organizations, it has proven a lucrative stream of income that keeps fans in the fold.
Did you know?
According to Be[In]Crypto Research, soccer tokens generated $3.5 billion in sales in March 2022 alone.
How do fan tokens work?
The basic idea is that an organization like a sports team mints lots of fungible tokens (as opposed to non-fungible tokens, or NFTs), then sells or distributes them to fans or speculators. These tokens often retail on secondary marketplaces, just like cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, meaning they are beholden to conventional market forces.
Fan tokens usually confer limited governance rights to holders. Paris St. Germain’s fan token, for instance, lets holders access exclusive VIP experiences and vote on the cover of the fan edition for soccer game FIFA 22. Fans also selected a message to feature inside the team’s locker room for a May 2021 match: "Together we can, Together we will! Let's take another step towards glory and victory."
What is Socios?
A platform called Socios, created by a company called Chiliz, dominates the market for fan tokens. That’s because most of them are based around soccer, a sport in which the platform has secured deals with top teams, including:
- FC Barcelona. Fans have decided on a dressing room mural and a captain’s armband (it read “NO CHILD OFFSIDE”). In August 2022, Chiliz bought a $100 million stake in FC Barcelona’s digital studio.
- Inter Milan. Fans voted on the first new goal celebration song in 8 years, chose the official team bus and weighed in on the jersey design.
- Manchester City. Fans chose a picture that hung in the player’s area at Wembley Stadium and voted on an editorial about a memorable Man City season.
Taking part in many of these polls enters fans into sweepstakes to win prizes, such as VIP access to the teams, plus exclusive promotions.
Socios isn't the only game in town; crypto exchange Binance launched its own fan tokens platform, imaginatively known as Binance Fan Tokens, in October 2021. It plays host to tokens from Alpine F1 Team, S.S. Lazio, FC Porto and Santos FC.
The market capitalization for fan tokens is modest. As of September 2022, S.S. Lazio had a market cap of $66 million, Alpine F1 Team had a market capitalization of $50 million; and PSG, a market cap of $29 million. By comparison, Bitcoin’s market cap is over $380 billion, and Ethereum’s is $200 billion.
Fan tokens aren’t just limited to the world of sports. Platforms such as Rally and Roll have long tried to popularize the idea of a social token, where fans of pop stars and influencers can influence their lives, too. They have yet to take off in a big way; the largest is perhaps Rally’s governance token, which has a market cap of about $140 million.
That may be because the benefits they provide, such as voting on decisions relating to a band or sports team, are relatively trivial. Governance tokens for decentralized finance (DeFi) projects, by contrast, allow holders to play a leading role in the governance of their respective protocols.
Hold enough of these governance tokens and you could command treasury chests in the billions of dollars—and use your control to exert influence that far outstretches the limited offering of fan tokens. That, in turn, commands value; UNI, the governance token of decentralized exchange (DEX) Uniswap, has a market capitalization of $4.9 billion.
How to buy a Fan Token
Still keen to weigh in on the inspirational motto to be displayed in your favorite team’s changing room? To be in with a chance of doing so, you’ll have to buy a fan token.
The process of buying a fan token is similar to buying any other cryptocurrency. The easiest way to buy them is on a crypto exchange or brokerage, such as Binance.
On Binance, you can buy PSG’s fan token, for instance, with three currencies: the USDT and BUSD stablecoins, or Bitcoin. You’ll have to create an account on the exchange, then place a ‘spot’ order for the fan token using any of the token pairings supported by the platform. Other exchanges support different pairings.
You can also buy fan tokens within the Socios app by using Chiliz (CHZ), the native token of Socios’s parent company. You can also buy CHZ within the app.
Once you’ve bought your fan token, you’ll receive it in your Web3 wallet, just like any other cryptocurrency.
If your fan token comes from Socios, the market leader for sports fan tokens, you can head to the Socios website or app to put your tokens to work. For instance, you can use these tokens to earn rewards within the platform or enter polls. Or you can sell them on a cryptocurrency exchange, if the value of them goes up.