AFL debuts first Reddit avatar fan gear, mints NFTs and spies the metaverse

Australian Football League partners with Reddit on virtual fan gear for its growing community in the forum

The Australian Football League (AFL) and Reddit are claiming a world first with the introduction of a limited edition set of AFL-themed avatars on the forum site. The news comes just weeks after the AFL struck a multi-year agreement to mint its own NFTs and step firmly towards the metaverse.

Under the new Reddit partnership, AFL-themed Avatar gear will be available on Reddit for every club during the 2022 AFL men’s season. This will allow fans to personalise their visual identity on the platform in their chosen footy garb. Reddit’s Avatar builder gives ‘redditors’ the ability to create their own profile Avatar, complete with hair, jackets, event-themed gear.

AFL executive general manager customer and commercial, Kylie Rogers, said the partnership with Reddit provides fans an authentic connection to footy on one of the largest online community platforms.

“The AFL community on Reddit is one of the most active and vibrant online homes for footy fans, so we’re excited to collaborate on a sporting world first that allows fans to represent their club proudly,” she stated. “Our primary focus is to build an emotional connection between our fans and the game. Partnering with Reddit allows us to do this in a totally new way with some of our most passionate fans.”

Credit: Reddit

Reddit has previously partnered with gaming companies, Riot and Bungie, to create avatar gear on its platform, but said this was the first time it’s worked with a sports league globally.

“The clubs hold a special place in the hearts of millions of Aussies and they were a natural partner for this initiative,” Reddit Australia market director, David Ray, said.

Once signed in, AFL fans can style the avatar under their Reddit profile settings. The AFL club jersey avatars will be available under the ‘Explore’ tab until 31 July 2022 and remain available in the Avatar builder for the entire 2022 season. Customised avatars will be viewable on a profile page, profile hovercard, in comments, and in posts created by Reddit users.

Reddit’s r/AFL community is one of the fastest growing on Reddit locally, increasing 11.4 per cent in May 2022. It is also Australia’s seventh most viewed subreddit, connecting over 190,000 active footy fans on the platform, the company said.

Australia is home to Reddit’s fourth-largest user base and according to the company, and is growing at 40 per year year-on-year. 

Minting NFTs

Avatar dressing is just one of several ways the AFL is looking to build its online community credentials virtually as it explores ways to bring more immersive, Web technologies into its marketing and fan mix.

Arguably, the most significant step forward was made in April, when the AFL announced a five-year partnership with Animoca Brands to create NFTs and the open metaverse to the AFL and AFL Women's (AFLW). The sporting code said the collaboration will enable it to extend into the Web 3.0 ecosystem, providing fans with immerseive metaverse experiences in areas such as virtual reality, digital art and gaming. It’s expected to drop its first official licensed NFT via the AFL Mint brand and digital hub shortly.

AFL Mint products will expand to deliver rewards and real-world experiences, including exclusive events and rewards for fans on game days, such as ticket upgrades, hospitality, experiential zones and exclusive merchandise.

AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, described the partnership as an exciting new chapter for Australian Football, AFL players and more importantly, the fans.

“Our aim is to continue to bring fans new ways of engaging in Australian football and by partnering with Animoca Brands, we will be playing in a digital space that is only getting bigger,” McLachlan said. “We are officially entering the Web 3.0 space and excited to immortalise moments in time across our AFL and AFLW competitions.”

Rogers said partnering with Animoca Brands ensured fans are getting the best and most innovative offering possible.

“We know we have the most passionate fans in the world, and we want to ensure our audience can continue to experience the game in different ways. We see the Animoca Brands partnership as key initiative in our continued evolution of fan engagement,” she said. “Through our AFL Mint brand, we will launch exciting new moments across our current Men's and Women's games, plus past greats and other product releases that will bring a unique fan experience we haven't seen before.”

The AFL joins a growing number of sporting codes to launch NFT programs, including NBA TopShots, ICC Fancraze, Moto GP Ignite and UFC Strikeforce.

As reported last week, the sports league has also teamed up with Telstra, Google, Accenture and Marvel Stadium on a new augmented reality (AR) wayfinding system harnessing 5G connectivity onsite. As well as indoor and venue wayfinding, users can also interact with content, digital character displays and virtual brand experiences onsite. The AR-based application is due to be available in time for the 2023 season.

Read CMO's special report into the rise of NFTs and their application for brands in our magazine edition.

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