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The Digital Collectible Evolution Part 2: The Ride

-- Written by @STEVEYGIII, NBA Top Shot, NFL All Day, and Candy MLB collector--

About a month ago I wrote a post on my blog about why I believe we are on our way through the evolution of collectibles to digital. There is such a strong core of people who are bought into the same like-minded thinking, but the questions become, how do we get there and how do we keep going there? In part 2, we dive a little deeper into those.

Where Does Cardboard Fit? First and foremost, we have to get away from this idea that our growth is going to come from converting cardboard collectors. I used to be heavily into the narrative that we have to be pounding card shows and the physical card market, but in all reality, that is one of the harder conversions we will have. People deeply into physical cards likely have big bags they are holding, get hung up on holding the physical cards themselves (enjoy your CDs) and/or are run by old money. Some people have decades in card collecting. Some people are completely upside down in cardboard because they got back in during COVID. Some people are tied to a physical brick and mortar card shop. They're not just going to abandon what they're sitting on and pump a totally different product, that could in reality lessen the value of their cards.

Where I’d want to be in the cardboard market is just outside of where it is at. We want that market to be aware of digital collectibles, but don’t give them too much on the surface. If there is a card show, I don’t want to be at a table inside, I want a kiosk outside with a banner on the market cap, how many people we’ve sent to NBA games and one other bullet (maybe hit mint counts). The person we want from physical cards is new money, open minded on what they’re purchasing and is more experience driven than having physical things. Build back the curiosity, build back a bit of the mystery and we build back the FOMO to grab the share of that market ready to explore collectibles in general; not just physical.

Gaming Market. The number one market I would be trying to attack is 100%, without a doubt the gaming market. The amount of money people are pumping into NBA2K annually for MyTeam cards or Fortnite for skins for example is ludacris. Take the NBA2K cards for example. They are a gaming piece, that in reality are worth absolutely 0 the minute the game comes out the next year. Every year (or season if you will), people are re-sinking cash back into the same brand. You have a dedicated, loyal customer base; who is repeat buying; who is collecting and who is also motivated by utility. Sound familiar? There is a pack opening experience, there is virtual currency (which arguably is the same as the Dapper wallet) and there is a marketplace to buy/sell. Going back to the target customer above, clearly these people are not set on tangible cards, there are worried about having an old bag, since it resets each year and you have consistent new money coming in. These are digital focused people. The crossover between Top Shot and NBA2K is one I think that would immensely benefit Top Shot and catapult growth.

I really believe the heart of how we get there is to build and fall in love with the concept of Top Shot again.

Digital Potential. Not just what it is right now, but what it could be and what we think it will be. That is what built the boom. The mystery of what it was, finding the product, becoming enamored with product and being a part of something that is always building. I remember first getting into Top Shot after my buddy relentlessly was tweeting about Top Shot and wanting packs. The initial experience and engagement with the product were unlike anything I had experienced with physical cards. To me, Top Shot is leading the evolution of digital collectibles with an innovative product that improves my enjoyment of the NBA. You can collect the players, teams, sets whatever you want; join like minded communities and expand your real-life fandom for basketball. The potential of leveraging technology, with a digital collectible, backed by the NBA has limitless bounds. The message of what the concept of Top Shot is at the core and the value propositions are what we need to focus on along the journey. That original energy was and always will be contagious if we realize we are approaching season 5 and not season 15 together, but imagine what season 15 will be like.

Player Collaborations. We’ve been through a handful of NBA player collaborations on Top Shot (I still have my personal e-mail from Kevin Durant). I think this is truly the area Top Shot needs to be the most organic. Utilize the best young players, who are genuinely into the product and run with them. Authenticity always shines through when you feel like someone is trying to sell you something. I would be partnering with guys like Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, Harrison Barnes, or even try to hook up with LaMelo Ball. Young talent who are into the web3 stuff, have shown interest in the product and that you can build around for the long haul. The KD spike was great when it launched with the commercials, but he’s not here for the long-term growth of the product like I believe some of the other younger stars would be. LaMelo tried to put out his own NFT and did an NFT collab for his shoe drop. You can’t tell me he couldn’t be pitched on Top Shot if we get LaVar on board.

Team Communities. The Team Captains and communities’ program on Top Shot is one of, if not the best components of the Top Shot ecosystem. We absolutely need to pump this to the max. This is where the experience really shines to me over cardboard as well. Most of the carboard communities are people trying to sell people their base PSA10 Prizm card above eBay prices and the buyers are only looking to pay 70% of comps. Throughout all the ups and downs of the last few seasons, the one constant has been my enjoyment of the communities on Top Shot.

The District of Collectors for the Washington Wizards has been an incredible community to be a part of and has genuinely increased my Wizards fandom. You’re surrounded by like minded people, with a uniting love for the team and a desire to grow together. I saw this season the Packaliers for the Cleveland Cavaliers are even doing games with other team communities, which is an incredible idea. I think most people prefer Twitter (or X) over Discord, so any way to leverage that more within the communities I think would help this even more. Last year alone, we went to Wizards games, I did my first team meet up during March Madness and had a bunch more flash challenges to engage in just to name a few; not to mention the constant banter of the endlessly optimistic Wizards fans we all are. If we ever get in arena connection to Top Shot, the community aspect is going to be massive. This is one of the best ways for new users to get immersed and bought into the Top Shot experience.

Every Moment has a Purpose. With respect to the inevitable cardboard comparisons, you have to recognize what's worked and also how to improve upon what doesn't. The existing user base wants to rip packs and we need to continue to find new ways to get people buying packs. Topps is out here putting out Allen & Ginter and Allen & Ginter Chrome, which in my opinion aren't even viable products (sorry A&G fans), but people are still knowingly buying it up because they are loyal to Topps, it is accessible and people want to rip packs. You have other people out ripping a $400 box of Topps Tribute for a handful of cards hoping for the big hit and accepting what might not come. We have to continue to make ripping packs something people want to come back to and enjoy. In both Topps examples above, and in general, most opened product is negative in value returned and you're stuck with a lot of common cards you can't sell, that take up space somewhere in your house. Unless you really love them, are building sets or are insane; over time they're forgotten, never used or looked at again. Here lies the beauty of Top Shot. We have the utility for things like burning, trade tickets, crafting, team set rewards and the Top Shot Score. Everything you rip can have a purpose and that is a value proposition cardboard does not offer. If you are collector and you can dispose of the stuff you do not want for other stuff you do or may want, you're going to feel a lot better about your purchases.

Aim for the Stars. A few quick thoughts on the way out. If I am Top Shot, I absolutely need to sponsor or find a way to get my name around the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Not just the Jalen Green wearing the moment, which was cool, but actually get the Top Shot name on there somehow or with some aspect. There is no better time to get eyes on the product than NBA All Star Weekend. Say what you want, but the Slam Dunk Contest is still the main attraction and built perfectly for a video highlight to collect for the new audience watching. Blow the marketing budget on the Team Communities and NBA All Star Weekend.

Closing. Also, I would love to see Top Shot focus on the uniqueness of the product more. The mints, the concepts, the story telling, the video itself. Top Shot has a competitive advantage over cardboard with the product itself. Let’s put that at the forefront once in a while.

Lastly, we have to have constant energy from the brand. At any moment in time, it could be someone’s first impression or five hundredth time engaging with Top Shot. It needs to be a good one and one you want to keep coming back to. It does not always have to be something new, but the rolled back pack prices or the way they did the LeBron scoring record celebration or even new ways to use the wish list to search for a moment you’ve been itching for. The experience needs to fun. Otherwise what the heck are we all here for?

Until next time, we ride at dawn…

- Stevey G III

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