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Australian Open volleys into metaverse with non-fungible tennis balls

As one of just four Grand Slams, the Australian Open is major. As sport, as entertainment and — with a global viewership of around 1 billion — as an economic heavyweight. Expanding its reach, the AO is venturing into virtual realms with NFTs and a play in the metaverse.

On the NFT end, the AO divided court surfaces into plots of 19 by 19 cm, linking each plot to a unique non-fungible tennis ball. The collection of NFTs were designed using generative art, with an algorithm blending color schemes, patterns and textures to create 6,776 one-of-a-kind 'balls'.

Not just a static jpeg, each NFT is linked to live match data. Any time a ball lands on an owner's plot, that detail is added to the NFT's metadata. And — aligning the non-fungible with the fungible — when one of 11 championship points lands on the court, the NFT owner of the corresponding plot will receive the actual tennis ball in a handcrafted case. The collection sold out in three minutes. 

Adding a layer of metaverse, AO also built a virtual version of its grounds in Decentraland, where people can play their own matches and interact with other fans from around the world. Tournament players will drop into Decentraland, and participants can view live, behind-the-scenes footage from over 300 cameras.

Trend Bite

As physical and digital worlds continue to converge, we’re witnessing the next evolution of the online space. While previously dominated by websites and social media’s infinite scroll, the next iteration will be defined by virtual worlds, metaverses and augmented phygital realities. An event like the Australian Open is a natural fit, with its opportunities for adding layers of interaction to existing match coverage. Get ready to serve up the meta-physical, and check out the examples we feature in our 22 consumer trend opportunities for 2022!