The National Basketball Association (NBA) is teaming up with Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate, to bring NBA-themed non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and content to the virtual space in China.
NBA China, the league’s Chinese business arm, made the announcement on Tuesday, revealing the partnership’s goal to enhance fan engagement in China.
The partnership will see the NBA launch a mini-app on Alipay, Ant Group’s flagship mobile app and China’s largest third-party payment platform, where fans can watch NBA video content and access services such as a joint membership of the NBA and Alipay.
This move is expected to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds and attract more fans to the NBA.
NBA has been leading the way in integrating Web3 technology into its business model. NBA Top Shot, an NFT collection launched in partnership with Dapper Labs in 2020, is the seventh largest NFT collection by all-time trading volume, according to NFT aggregation site CryptoSlam. The success of NBA Top Shot has inspired NBA to take its Web3 venture to the next level.
In September 2022, the NBA partnered with blockchain gaming company Sorare to launch Sorare NBA, an Ethereum-based game where players can win, trade, and play with NFT basketball cards.
The platform has seen tremendous success, with an NFT of Giannis Antetokounmpo selling for a record-breaking price of over US$187,000 ETH on Feb. 6.
Ant Group entered the NFT space in 2021 and oversaw the sale of NFTs on Alipay, which are referred to as “digital collectibles” in mainland China.
The company also collaborated with NBA in 2022 to issue Lunar New Year-themed digital collectibles in China.
Since China first broadcast an NBA game in 1987, the NBA has become one of the most popular foreign sporting groups in the country, with over 170 million fans across Chinese social media, according to NBA China.
The partnership between NBA and Ant Group is expected to enhance fan engagement and increase interest in the NBA among Chinese audiences.