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Chiliz announces $50M incubator and accelerator program for early-stage blockchain projects

The company said the funds will be invested into early-stage blockchain projects that leverage the Chiliz blockchain for sports and entertainment and the Socios.com partner network.

Chiliz, a global company that deals with blockchain for sports and entertainment, has launched its incubator and accelerator program, Chiliz Labs, with the support of Jump Crypto. The $50 million program intends to invest in early-stage blockchain projects that leverage the Chiliz blockchain for sports and entertainment and the Socios.com partner network. 

According to the announcement, Chiliz aims to build the largest community of fans, brands, and developers in the sports and entertainment industry to create a dedicated sports Web3 ecosystem. These projects will leverage the new Chiliz blockchain for sports and entertainment, which had its genesis block validated on February 8th. The incubator and accelerator program promises to provide funding and strategic guidance to assist these projects in achieving their goals.

Chiliz has announced LiveLike and FanFest as the first companies to build on the new chain, with eight to ten more enterprise-level projects to come. These projects will include NFT ticketing pilots, athlete-focused Fan Tokens, and Web3 infrastructure partners building for sports and entertainment. Jump Crypto's President, Kanav Kariya, praised Chiliz for solving the problem of how to scale brands and maximize fan engagement sustainably and affordably.

Chiliz CEO, Alexandre Dreyfus, highlighted Chiliz Labs' importance in building an ecosystem of fan experiences and transactions with Fan Tokens providing a "digital key" that can work across any product or experience built on their infrastructure. Chiliz is the creator of Fan Tokens and the Socios.com fan engagement and rewards app, with more than 170 partners and over 1.8 million wallets.

Related: Binance to bring fans closer to sports teams with fan token platform

As blockchain technology continues to revolutionize industries around the world, it continues to find  interesting use case in the world of sports with the emergence of Web3 platforms, offering new ways to engage fans and drive value for sports brands.

As previously covered by Cointelegraph, Web3 projects aim to create engagement between fans and sports leagues. In Deloitte’s “2022 Sports Industry Outlook” report, it predicted an acceleration in the blending of real and digital worlds, along with growing markets for nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and immersive technologies.

According to the report, these advancements could potentially result in a boost in fan involvement, which has been the foundation for securing sponsor revenue, ticket and merchandise sales, as well as the general appeal of a sports league for a long time.

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Crypto ads and sponsors banned from women’s cricket league in India

Following men's cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) prohibits the women's teams from having commercial associations and other sponsorships with crypto businesses.

Indian authorities once again demonstrated their tough stance on cryptocurrencies with a preemptive ban on crypto advertising and sponsorships in the local women’s cricket league. 

As reported by Planet Sport on Feb. 14, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sent a 68-page advisory to the Women's Premier League teams, specifying the activities which couldn’t be advertised. In the document, cryptocurrencies were mentioned among the gambling and tobacco industries:

“No franchisee shall undertake a partnership or any kind of association with an entity that is in any way connected/related to an entity that is involved/operates, directly or indirectly, in the cryptocurrency sector."

The ban follows a previous prohibition for the men’s cricket Premier League, introduced back in 2022. Before the prohibition, Indian Premier League had collaborated at least with two local crypto exchanges — CoinSwitch Kuber and CoinDCX. Coincidentally, in March 2022, the crypto businesses decided not to advertise in the Premier League out of responsibility concerns.

Home to an estimated 115 million cryptocurrency investors, in 2022, India introduced two laws demanding crippling taxes on crypto-related unrealized gains and transactions and requiring its citizens to pay a 30% tax on unrealized crypto gains.

Related: India in ‘no hurry’ for CBDC as digital rupee pilot onboards 50K users

Some of the investors expected a change this year to ease the pressure on the crypto sector, but the national budget for 2023 didn’t deliver them. The country’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, believes in a global regulatory framework on crypto, which is why we probably won’t see any dramatic shifts in the Indian regime, initiated in an autonomous manner.

Crypto advertising became a hot topic for global regulators and enforcement agencies amid the series of failures and bankruptcies of large platforms. In the United Kingdom, newly proposed advertising rules could potentially see executives of crypto firms face up to two years of prison for failing to meet certain requirements around promotion.

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Ferrari cuts ties with crypto sponsor ahead of 2023 Formula One season

The Ferrari-Velas partnership from 2021 — set at $30 million a year — was aimed at increasing fan engagement through nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and other shared initiatives.

Scuderia Ferrari, the racing division of luxury carmaker Ferrari, joined the growing list of Formula One racing teams to end partnerships with their cryptocurrency sponsors. Ferrari exited its multi-year partnership deals with Velas Blockchain and chip manufacturing giant Snapdragon, resulting in a cumulative $55 million loss for the Italian team ahead of the 2023 season.

The Ferrari-Velas partnership from 2021 — set at $30 million a year — was aimed at increasing fan engagement through nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and other shared initiatives. However, the team was noncompliant with the clauses that permit Velas to create NFT images, according to RacingNews365.

On November 2022, Mercedes, too, bore a loss of $15 million after suspending its partnership with FTX as the crypto exchange filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Red Bull Racing’s partnership with Tezos Foundation suffered a similar fate as the blockchain company reportedly decided not to renew its agreement citing strategy misalignment.

Toto Wolff, the team principal and CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, warned that other teams could come across a similar situation. However, the relationship between F1 and the crypto ecosystem spans beyond partnerships. On October 2022, Formula One filed 'F1' trademarks as it revealed plans to set up an online marketplace for cryptocurrency, meta tokens, digital collectibles, crypto-collectibles and NFTs.

Related: Argentine football league scores metaverse partnership after World Cup triumph

Amid a bear market, Web3 projects have taken up the lead to strengthen engagement between fans and sports leagues.

Deloitte’s “2022 Sports Industry Outlook” report predicted an acceleration in the blending of real and digital worlds, along with growing markets for NFTs and immersive technologies. As Cointelegraph reported, the lack of easy-to-use platforms stands as the biggest challenge for mainstream adoption.

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Web3 projects aim to create engagement between fans and sports leagues

Sports leagues are showing interest in DAOs, NFTs and the metaverse, but challenges may hamper adoption.

The multi-billion-dollar sports industry is undergoing a digital transformation and Web3 elements are likely to play a major role. This notion was highlighted in Deloitte’s “2022 Sports Industry Outlook” report, which predicts an acceleration in the blending of real and digital worlds, along with growing markets for nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and immersive technologies. 

According to the report, such advances may lead to a significant increase in fan engagement. This is an important point to consider, given that fan engagement has long served as the backbone for ensuring sponsor revenue, ticket and merchandise sales, along with the overall popularity of a sports league.

Yet as technology advances, sports fans have expressed interest in forming deeper relationships with sports leagues. For instance, the “Stats Perform 2021 Fan Engagement” report notes that sports fans are not only focused on watching sports now but that they also aim to “live” experiences through technological advancements.

Direct relationships with sports leagues

Eyal Donath Zafir, investor and crypto lead at Liberty Global Ventures, told Cointelegraph that Web3 will likely be a game changer when it comes to creating better fan engagement for sports leagues:

“Web3 is the internet with true ownership, as it provides a built-in layer that makes it easy to hold and transfer value. For sports leagues and their fans, Web3 can be a game changer in building direct relationships, aligning incentives and enabling true ownership and influence.”

Zafir added that Web3 projects utilizing decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) models, NFTs and cryptocurrency can demonstrate how owners of a sports property can use technology to perform revenue shares, open intellectual property licensing or take fan votes into consideration.

Although these concepts are still nascent, a handful of sports leagues have started exploring such models. For example, Karate Combat — a full-contact martial arts sports league — recently announced that it will form a DAO to transition its governance to its fans and athletes.

Rob Bryan, founder of Karate Combat, told Cointelegraph that during the summer of 2022, the entire league — including fighter contracts, copyrights, content, intellectual property and more — was sold to a foundation that serves as a legal wrapper for a DAO.

In turn, Bryan explained that there are no longer equity holders of Karate Combat but that the martial arts sports league will be governed and controlled by fans that hold the league’s token.

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“Token holders will have the most control over the direction of the league from here,” he said. Bryan elaborated that a DAO infrastructure will ultimately allow tokenholders to do things like vote on DAO suppliers that operate league functions, set token incentives and decide — within constraints set by the Fight Operations DAO supplier — who should fight against whom.

Image from a Karate Combat match. Source: Karate Combat

Adam Kovacs, league president of Karate Combat, further told Cointelegraph that such a model goes beyond popular Web3 elements like NFTs for sporting leagues. He said:

“Web3 needs to meet fans where they are and only then utilize incentivization. We don’t think fans want to pick out jersey colors. They want to support their favorite athletes, make predictions on who is going to win, set matchups and perhaps land a job with their favorite sports league.”

Echoing Kovacs, “Commodore,” the pseudonymous co-founder at Krause House — a global community of basketball fans want to operate the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a DAO — believes that sports fans need to be able to vote on certain things to feel involved with a sports league.

As of today, Commodore explained that NBA fans are not engaged on the levels that they should be. “One interesting thing to think about is that each NBA team really lacks a direct relationship with their fan base by doing things such as barring season ticket holders on an email list. Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Bleacher Report, ESPN and more all sit directly in between the fan and the team,” he pointed out.

In order to change this, Commodore said that Krause House is offering an NFT-based membership model, which essentially serves as a ticket into its community. Community members are then able to use a governance token that has no financial value to make decisions regarding their organization's events and strategy.

According to Commodore, this process is internal, yet he noted that Krause House aims to bring this model to the NBA. “We are in conversations with NBA teams from an ownership perspective. This means that we are trying to buy into a team and then a team can partner with us on fan engagement.”

Flex Chapman, co-founder at Krause House, added that for a long time, fans have served as the underlying unit of sports leagues. Yet he believes that Web3 elements will eventually let fans have more say and access. “This model enables low-risk decisions to fans so that they can feel more connected to NBA teams while having a bigger impact. This is an avenue to create new fan experiences in ways we haven’t seen before,” he remarked.

While DAO models are starting to pique the interest of certain sports leagues, gamified experiences in Metaverse environments are also gaining traction. Dirk Lueth, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Upland — a metaverse mapped to the real world — told Cointelegraph that the sports industry is looking for ways to better engage with their younger audience and international fan base. Therefore he believes that experimenting with Web3 projects to gamify traditional fan experiences is the first step sports teams and leagues are taking:

“As more and more of our identity is represented virtually, so is our fandom. If much of the way we express ourselves is on online platforms and virtual worlds, it’s natural for our sports teams to meet us there.”

Most recently, Upland partnered with FIFA — the international governing body of association football — to allow fans to participate in gamified experiences in the Metaverse. Although such a model doesn’t allow fans to vote on certain decisions, Lueth explained that a Metaverse approach enables sports fans to enhance ownership of assets within a realistic visual environment.

“Digitizing and gamifying a similar concept is enhancing this experience. Similarly, just as fans wear their team colors proudly, in Web3 platforms like Upland, they can ‘wear’ their fandom as a block explorer (game avatar) or decorate and customize their metaverse homes,” he said.

Images from Upland's partnership with FIFA. Source: Upland

Indeed, such a concept may be key for sports leagues moving forward. Based on the success of Upland’s partnership with FIFA, Lueth said that Upland has partnered with the Argentine Football Association to create fan engagement within its metaverse platform. 

“Many clubs and leagues have reached out to us after the successful FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 collaboration. There are many questions about how to experiment with these models since it’s all innovative. What easily resonates are not trying to replace experiences, but finding the ones you can enhance with true ownership of assets and a visual layer such as the metaverse,” he said.

Will sports leagues be quick to adopt Web3 models?

Although a handful of sports leagues have started experimenting with Web3 models, a number of challenges may hamper adoption. For instance, creating an easy-to-use platform for the mainstream is critical in order for these concepts to catch on.

According to Zafir, mainstream adoption will only take off with real-world utility, along with crypto complexities abstracted away from the end users. “I believe that two things need to happen for adoption. First, Web3 needs to be really easy to use. Secondly, we need to create great use cases.” Zafir added that Web3 currently has a limited number of users leveraging things like crypto wallets. Given this, a DAO model may be complex for Web2 users, especially those who are unfamiliar with concepts such as storing tokens within digital wallets.

To put this in perspective, Bryan explained that Karate Combat fans will eventually be airdropped tokens that can be held in third-party wallets or the Karate Combat wallet built inside the league’s mobile app. “Fans should be able to cast votes there. The user experience will be very simple within the app,” he said. Bryan further noted that the tokens will presumably be listed on crypto exchanges.

Such a model could also create additional risks beyond accessibility. Margaret Rosenfeld, chief executive officer of Zukunft — an advisory firm for Web3 technology business models — told Cointelegraph that before sports leagues decide to use any blockchain tokens as part of a new fan engagement model, they should do a thorough analysis of the securities, gaming, commodities and payments laws in the different jurisdictions in which it operates.

“Any type of token that is ‘earned’ or used as a ‘reward’ can easily cross the line and gain regulator scrutiny if not properly structured,” she said.

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Regarding a DAO model, Rosenfeld said that a governance token allowing fans to vote should also be carefully considered. She noted that the Ooki DAO lawsuit brought by the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC) should serve as an example for future DAOs.

“The CFTC argues that the Ooki DAO is an unincorporated association and anyone who voted as part of the governance model should be held individually liable for alleged illegal activities of the DAO.” Given this, Rosenfeld believes that traditional industries such as sports may want to move away from DAOs in their Web3 engagement models if the CFTC prevails in its argument against Ooki.

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Formula One Team Haas F1 to Mint Branded NFTs With Opensea

Formula One Team Haas F1 to Mint Branded NFTs With OpenseaU.S.-licensed Formula One constructor Haas F1 Team has announced a collaboration with non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Opensea. As part of the agreement, a collection of NFTs will be produced for Haas while Opensea’s logo will appear on its cars. Opensea to Help American Formula One Team Launch NFT Collection Leading peer-to-peer marketplace for non-fungible tokens […]

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Shoppers in India can now order sneakers in the Metaverse for a week

Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart partnered with Polygon-incubated organization eDAO to launch a virtual shopping world in the Metaverse.

Consumers in India are getting more options for a digital shopping experience as major local e-commerce platforms increasingly experiment with blockchain and the Metaverse.

Indian shoppers can try out products from brands like Puma and Nivea in the gamified and interactive metaverse. That is thanks to local e-commerce giant Flipkart launching a metaverse space for consumers to discover products in a photorealistic virtual destination and shop.

Flipkart officially announced the launch of Flipverse on Oct. 17, aiming to bridge the best of the online and offline shopping experience.

Developed in collaboration with Polygon-incubated organization eDAO, Flipverse allows shoppers to create a metaverse avatar to go shopping in a virtual world, intending to bring customers closer to their favorite brands. At the same time, brands will be able to generate and create their metaverse-ready digital twin in the virtual world.

Besides featuring contests and exclusive brand offers, Flipverse will support unique digital collectibles. According to the announcement, Flipverse will feature a wide number of brands, including Puma, Noise, Nivea, Lavie, Tokyo Talkies, Campus and others. The new shopping experience will be available on Flipkart’s newly online shopping platform, FireDrops.

The Flipverse offering is reportedly in the pilot stage and aims to attract interest during this month’s festive season.

According to Naren Ravula, vice president of product strategy of Flipkart Labs, the Metaverse is one of the “significant revolutions” in the development of e-commerce, and it has immense potential. “By providing customers with access to their preferred brands, offers, SuperCoins, and digital collectibles, we are aiming to improve their shopping experiences in a virtual and immersive setting,” Ravula noted.

Polygon co-founder Sandeep Nailwal pointed out that the world has only “just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible in the metaverse,” and e-commerce is one of the “killer use cases” of the Metaverse.

Related: Totality Corp CEO explains why India is still largely untapped for NFTs

As one of the largest e-commerce platforms in India, Flipkart is known for making some loud cryptic statements on social media. Last year, Flipkart took to Twitter to say that the company would be accepting Bitcoin (BTC) payments, which eventually turned out to be an April Fools’ Day prank.

Flipkart is not the only company in India to experiment with the Metaverse. Indian multinational technology firm Tech Mahindra announced the launch of TechMVerse in February 2022, planning to offer interactive and immersive experiences to customers. As of July 2022, the firm was reportedly working on as many as 60 metaverse projects.

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Fan token firm Chiliz grows staff by 70% despite crypto winter

Scalability is one of the possible reasons for the fun token industry to grow despite the ongoing bear market, according to Chiliz and Socios CEO.

Fan token company Chiliz has continued to expand its workforce despite the ongoing bear market, reflecting a growing trend in the fan token sector.

The overall cryptocurrency market has seen a massive selloff in 2022, with the total market capitalization plummeting 60% since the beginning of the year. Some major crypto companies, including Coinbase and Gemini, had to cut their workforce by 10%-20% to maintain operations and continue serving their clients.

While a wide number of crypto businesses have faced challenges amid the cryptocurrency winter, the fan token industry appears to have shown some resilience.

Chiliz has increased the company’s headcount by over 70% this year as the firm continued to expand its global presence in 2022, Chiliz and Socios CEO Alexandre Dreyfus told Cointelegraph.

According to Dreyfus, Chiliz’s workforce now counts more than 300 full-time employees operating from the new offices opened this year, including Miami, Switzerland, London, Milan and Sao Paulo. The firm has also been hiring new talent for offices in Madrid, Malta, Lyon and Istanbul.

“We’ve grown our team and our global presence very significantly,” Dreyfus said, adding that Chiliz has successfully survived the previous major crypto winter. “We have been through market conditions similar to this in the past,” he stated, noting that the firm was founded in 2018.

Chiliz’s hiring spree reflects a growing trend in the fan token industry in 2022. According to data from the industry data aggregator CryptoSlam, monthly volumes for global fan token sales surged about 200% since early 2022, reaching about $6.4 billion in September. In January, these volumes amounted to $2.2 billion.

Year-to-date monthly volumes of fan token global sales. Source: CryptoSlam

While fan tokens’ sales volumes have been on the rise, the trend has been quite the opposite for nonfungible tokens (NFT), according to CryptoSlam data. Monthly volumes for global NFT sales shrunk by 88% from $4.8 billion in January to $550 million in September 2022, while trading volumes plummeted 98% since the beginning of the year.

Scalability may be one of possible reasons behind the success of the fun token industry, according to Dreyfus. "Fan tokens are the only digital asset that can affordably deliver the scalability to allow millions of users to access these communities," he said.

Unlike NFTs, fan tokens are fungible digital assets, meaning that they are interchangeable and each token holds the same value at any given time. Dreyfus stated:

“NFTs have been lauded for their many use cases, with the ability to form communities around token holders. The issue is, minting even a few thousand NFTs is a very expensive pursuit.”

The CEO pointed out that fan tokens are not intended at beating NFTs as these two types of tokens rather complement each other. Dreyfus also mentioned that Chiliz has a robust strategy around NFTs as they play an important role in their company vision, stating:

“It's not about beating NFTs. Fan tokens are a product and NFTs are a technology, one that’s an integral part of our product offering. They are one of the ways we reward fan token holders.”

Despite making some developments in the NFT industry, Chiliz remains committed to fan tokens as the firm's primary focus. “We are still at less than 1% of our potential,” Dreyfus added.

Related: Crypto.com downsizes some sports partnership deals amid market downturn

Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency designed to provide community benefits to fans of sports teams, bands and other groups. The Chiliz platform and the fan engagement platform Socios have established fan token partnerships with dozens of sports organizations worldwide, including FC Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and others.

In March 2022, Chiliz launched the testnet for its new layer-1 blockchain network Chiliz Chain 2.0, also known as CC2. The full CC2 launch is expected to take place in Q4 2022.

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NFTs transform how fans bet on upcoming sports stars

A fan-centric Web3 sports platform uses NFTs to bring a new level of connectivity and ownership to betting on the success of upcoming athletes.

Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and the sports world are on a mutually beneficial trajectory into the next generation of connectivity.

The latter is a catalyst for more mainstream adoption, with average sports fans rushing to collect NFT memorabilia and Web3-backed event tickets. While NFTs give the industry never-before-experienced levels of democracy and the connectivity which fans crave.

The platform FANtium is using NFTs to take financing athletes to the next level. Fans can use digital assets like bets on the future success of their favorite up-and-coming sports stars.

However, instead of placing a bet and walking away with only a monetary reward, NFTs allow fans to connect with athletes and have recurring rewards based on their success.

On Oct. 11, the platform closed a funding round backed by prominent figures in both the Web3 and sports worlds, such as Sebastian Borget, co-founder and COO of the Sandbox metaverse, and professional Austrian tennis player Dominic Thiem.

Cointelegraph spoke with Jonathan Ludwig, CEO and founder of FANtium, to understand how athlete success can be fractionalized and democratized through Web3 technologies.

Ludwig emphasized that NFTs aren’t just about sports collectibles in this case:

“It’s about participating in an athlete’s community and career in a way that’s never been done before."

According to the CEO, blockchain technology takes away any “intermediaries between the fans and the athlete” when it comes to their financing and the rewards of their success.

Related: Critics can’t stop NFTs from becoming a mainstay of daily life

Though success is sometimes hard to quantify, NFTs can create a fixed share in the earnings, therefore, the success of an athlete. This is typically connected to prize money won by an athlete but can also be sponsorship income.

Ludwig explains that the FANtium model includes historical data of all athletes in that sport to ensure that:

"Sports fans have an attractive return on investment and athletes have an enticing alternative to finance their career."

While Web3 initiatives in the sports industry have often favored major sports stars like the NFL’s star quarterback Tom Brady who released an NFT collection with ESPN or big-league teams such as the Houston Texans, Ludwig argues that the success of up-and-coming talents should also be valued. 

“Established professional athletes are already earning enough money to cover their running costs,” he says. They can also use proceeds to “make valuable special investments in their career.”

However, for the sports stars of the future they can use these NFT-like bets to further their career.

“Young up-and-coming talents, on the other hand, need the capital to kick start their career, and make it to the top.”

Ludwig says this includes both collegiate and youth athletes.

Recently, in the world of professional sports, the league Karate Combat announced its plan to launch a fan-powered decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) for athlete governance within the league.

The sports metaverse startup LootMogul also recently secured $200 million in funding to boost the development of a gaming-focused metaverse. 

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Formula One files ‘F1’ trademarks covering crypto, NFTs and Metaverse

The racing competition has plans to set up an online marketplace for cryptocurrency, meta tokens, digital collectibles, crypto-collectibles, and NFTs.

Formula One is looking to establish itself within the Web3 ecosystem with eight recently filed trademarks for its globally recognized “F1” abbreviation.

According to licensed trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis, the race-car league filed eight trademark applications on Oct. 5 covering cryptocurrency, nonfungible tokens (NFTs), crypto marketplaces, retail stores for virtual goods, cryptocurrency trading and mining, and blockchain financial transactions.

The filed trademarks suggest that F1 has plans to play an active role in the emerging Web3 ecosystem with its trademark covering software for use with cryptocurrency, meta tokens, digital collectibles, and NFTs, as well as software for digital currency payment and exchange transactions.

Beyond software, Formula One also plans to offer retail store services in virtual goods, as well as provide an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

According to the trademark filed, F1 will also dabble in financial transactions via blockchain technology by providing a digital currency or digital token. The scope of the trademark also extends to entertainment services using virtual goods, namely downloadable artwork, cryptocurrency, digital collectibles, crypto-collectibles, and NFTs, for use in online, virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality environments.

In August, Cointelegraph reported that F1's trademark department registered two new trademark filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, where the company’s brand and logo were going to be listed on a wide range of goods and services during next year’s race.

Related: Web3 must bridge back into Web2 for real cash flows — Checkout.com VP

F1 is among several major brands to seek exposure to the Web3 economy, which is still in its nascent stages. Asset managers have also recognized the potential, with exchange-traded fund issuer Bitwise recently launching a Web3 ETF for institutional and retail investors.

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NFT space bridges passions for tennis legend Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova sat down with Cointelegraph at Binance Blockchain Week Paris to discuss her growing interest in NFTs and passion for bringing more women into Web3.

Tennis legend Maria Sharapova appeared at the Binance Blockchain Week Paris 2022 to share her interest in nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

During an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph, Sharapova mentioned that “she is exposing herself to this new world of crypto and Web3,” noting that the sector will help her better engage with her fans. Sharapova was also one of the strategic investors behind MoonPay’s Series A financing round, yet she mentioned that she aims to bridge her personal experiences to the digital world moving forward.

Maria Sharapova (right) with Cointelegraph senior reporter Rachel Wolfson (left) at Binance Blockchain Week Paris 2022. Source: Rachel Wolfson

Cointelegraph: What are you doing here today at Binance Blockchain Week Paris?

Maria Sharapova: I’m crypto curious and would like to figure out how to bridge the incredible physical experiences that I've been able to have with my fans over so many years. I’m now finding ways to include experiences in the digital world, so that’s what I’m most excited about. Also, as a female entrepreneur, I believe it’s important to pave the way for other women to enter Web3. Money is a topic that I feel we don’t speak enough about as women.

CT: Do you have plans to launch an NFT project?

MS: I’ve been looking at this space for several months now, as I’m someone who is more in favor of opportunities for the long haul. When I saw the opportunity to bridge physical with digital experiences, I knew I wanted it to be a long-term experience for myself. Storytelling is very important and it’s a huge component of Web3. I think stories will be told better for both parties when thinking about a project long-term.

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CT: Do you think NFTs can help create better fan engagement?

MS: Absolutely. NFTs are about finding ways to communicate with the right communities interested in what I’m doing within a different type of space. For example, I was seen on a television screen every week playing tennis for so many years, yet I no longer have that platform on a daily basis because I retired a couple of years ago. The Web3 experience has given me access to my fans in entirely new ways. I feel like I’m more engaged with them, as opposed to them just being engaged by watching me compete.

CT: As a female entrepreneur and former athlete, do you have plans to get more women involved in Web3?

MS: I want to allow women to have a space where they experiment with Web3. For example, I was 17 when I won my first grand slam and social media was in no way part of that experience. It took years for me to get comfortable with social media over time. I think Web3 is also an area where one has to get out there in order to learn and grow from it. As I mentioned earlier, the conversation about money, finance, crypto and blockchain is a taboo conversation. People may feel that unless they know about these topics, they shouldn’t speak up. But I think this should be the other way around — you learn a lot more if you ask questions and get involved.

CT: Why did you decide to invest in MoonPay?

MS: I want to diversify my portfolio. In the beginning, my investments were around consumer goods. For example, I invested in the sunscreen brand Supergoop early on. I am now exposing myself to an entirely new category.

CT: What do you think are the biggest challenges associated with Web3 and how can we overcome these?

MS: I’d love to see the quality of Web3 experiences come through a bit more and improve, specifically in the digital space.

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CT: Any additional comments?

MS: I’m really interested in the NFT space because it bridges my passion for fashion, interior design and creating spaces that are unique to individuals and communities. I’ve become more interested in this space because it has more of a design perspective. It’s also an entirely new revenue stream that both artists and women are discovering.

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