Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. prides itself on being the official provider of gloves to Major League Baseball. The Town & Country-based manufacturer of sports equipment is now using its gloves to expand into a new type of product off the baseball diamond: non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
Rawlings this week announced plans to begin selling a limited number of NFTs, an emerging type of digital collectible asset sold on the internet. NFTs are a “unique digital work of art with a specific ownership code that acts like a certificate of authenticity” purchased using cryptocurrencies, according to Portland Inno, a sister publication of St. Louis Inno.
The debut into the NFTs market for Rawlings will involve selling a collection of 461 NFTs that are digital replicas of exclusive, custom baseball gloves created by the company for its NFT collection. Individuals who purchase one of the 461 NFTs will have the ability to trade in their NFT to receive the physical glove that’s paired with the NFT. In addition, Rawlings said NFT buyers will be able to “gain access to exclusive future offerings” provided by the company.
Dylan Kavanagh, vice president of digital marketing at Rawlings, said expanding into NFTs provides Rawlings the opportunity to interact both with existing customers of its collectable items while also drawing in new customers interested in NFTs.
“Gloves are a very collectable market. With the rise of NFTs and the popularity, gloves seem kind of prime to enter the NFT space,” Kavanagh said.
Rawlings joins other high-profile sports retailers that have dabbled in NFTs. Portland Inno reports popular footwear and apparel brands Nike and Adidas have launched NFT collections of their own, with Nike generating more than $3 million right after it began selling digital versions of sneakers.
Rawlings’ PRIMUS NFT collection will be offered across four tiers, based on the exclusivity of the gloves paired with the NFTs. The collection includes 300 NFTs that Rawlings says will sell for the equivalent of $500 in Ether, a cryptocurrency used to purchase NFTs; 150 NFTs for $750; and 10 NFTs for $1,500. Rawlings also plans to raffle off a “1-of-1” glove, and the NFT aligned with it, worn by New York Mets Shortstop Francisco Lindor on Wednesday in a game against the New York Yankees. Proceeds from the raffle will be given to charity, Rawlings said.
If NFT buyers decided to exchange their NFT for a physical Rawlings glove, Rawlings said the glove will feature an individually numbered certificate of authenticity and an NFT stamp that’s specific to the NFT purchased by the buyer.
The NFT will be destroyed if the buyer trades it in for the physical glove. “Either the purchaser will trade in their NFT for the glove and the NFT will be destroyed or they will keep the NFT and the glove will be destroyed,” Kavanagh said. “This will create variable scarcity of both the glove and the NFT depending on how many NFTs are ‘burned’ and will ensure that only the authentic purchaser of the NFT can receive the glove.”
Given Rawlings’ identity as a manufacturer of baseball gloves, Kavanagh said it was important to include the physical product within its launch into the NFT space.
“That is who we are,” he said. “We make the best baseball gloves in the world. We feel the NFT adds tangibility to the glove collectable market. It also brings the baseball glove to a new consumer.”
Rawlings plans to begin selling its NFTs in late August. They will be available to purchase through NFT marketplace OpenSea. Rawlings has teamed up with technology agency Dream Syndicate to launch its NFT collection.
In addition to selling the NFTs, Rawlings is creating a community channel on social media platform Discord to allow consumers to engage with each other and to get early access to the NFTs and other merchandise.
“We know that’s where a lot of NFTs are launched and talked about and the NFT community is engaging, so we knew we had to be there with the launch,” Kavanagh said.
Kavanagh said he expects the Discord community to extend its conversations beyond the NFTs into discussions around topics like baseball gloves and MLB.
“It’s an interesting social media network that we’re learning more about ourselves, but we found it’s very interactive and a way for us to get closer to our consumer and fans of Rawlings,” he said.
In addition to gloves, Rawlings is the official supplier of bases, baseballs, helmet and face guards for MLB. Kavanagh said the decision by Rawlings, which was founded in 1887, to pursue NFTs marks the brand’s commitment to continue growing the sports of baseball by tinkering with innovation that can draw in new fans.
“We want to expand the market of Rawlings, but also of baseball,” he said.
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