Three years ago, Tim Mangnall began approaching soccer clubs across Europe with what he thought was an attractive proposition: creating NFTs as a fan engagement tool.“I spoke with pretty much every single Premier League club in the UK, every single European club, but no one wanted to talk to us,” recalls Mangnall. “It was too far-fetched.” Today, not so much.
Mangnall started his agency, Capital Block, in 2018, dedicated to NFT strategy, and ultimately helped Turkey’s top football club, Galatasaray, create the first NFT collection of its kind. Now Mangnall’s phone is ringing off the hook with calls from clubs wanting to know how they can build NFT strategies. Capital Block is now in talks with ten more European teams.
As an NFT consultative agency — not a platform or a marketplace, Mangnall notes — his goal is to “help break down the misunderstandings of the NFT sector for clubs around the world.” He helps sports clubs see beyond the “ape and punk” mentality and encourages them to think of NFTs as tools that build fan engagement and foster community.
“We come in and we help them identify assets, and build their strategy and roadmap,” he says. “And then we bring in the right NFT platform or blockchain partner.” The agency’s only fee is revenue share when NFTs are sold. The Galatasaray NFT, which honored the club’s founder, sold out in 59 seconds last October, says Mangnall, and brought in 300,000 euros in revenue.
Mangnall started his career in advertising and media working with traditional agencies, then started his own shop in 2017. That agency, Capital Sports Media, got a lucky break when Mangnall signed a contract with Galatasaray for exclusive sponsorship and media rights.
“I thought, ‘This is risky, but it could also be a huge reward,’” Mangnall recalls. While Galatasaray is a wildly popular club, with more than three million spectators per game, he knew there was an opportunity to introduce a more “European mindset” to the way the club managed marketing and sponsorships.
“If your media campaigns are not running smoothly, you're not getting the media that you wanted, you're not getting any reporting, you're not getting any data, you're not getting any post-campaign analysis,” says Mangnall.
By combining that mindset with a young and talented Turkish team that understands and respects local culture, Capital Sports Media quickly became the largest and fastest growing sports agency in Turkey, says Mangnall.
"I was a big believer in crypto and blockchain. I thought, ‘Crypto is going to take over sports sponsorship in such a big way, and replace gambling tenfold.’”
“We now work with every major football club and sports organization over here,” says Mangnall. While he’s a pioneer in the space, other sports agencies are hopping on the bandwagon. But where his company differs, says Mangnall, is that it is not aligned with any one platform. “We give an impartial view based on the strategy and the brief that we’ve had [with the client],” he says.
As an investor in cryptocurrency and NFTs, it was natural for Mangnall to think about how that might fit into his business. "I was a big believer in crypto and blockchain. I thought, ‘Crypto is going to take over sports sponsorship in such a big way, and replace gambling tenfold,’” he says. But he knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. Education, he says, is key, not just for clubs, but for fans. “You need to educate your fans on how to buy NFTs and why they're important, because the worst thing a club can do is launch an NFT, and it’s just a picture. I'm very, very vocal on how important it is for NFT's in sports to differentiate themselves from your apes and your punks.”
For instance, fans who own NFTs might unlock an exclusive experience, such as special content, a branded jersey, or a livestream event with a club manager. He started Capital Block in 2018 as a separate agency dedicated to NFT strategy.
As a member of Cointelegraph Innovation Circle, Mangnall says he was attracted to the “fantastic reach” that the brand has in the crypto space. He’s looking forward to contributing content that he hopes will dispel some misconceptions of NFTs as merely profile images for cool kids.
“It feels like it’s teetering on the brink of becoming very cliquey,” he says. “I keep talking about fan engagement but on the art side of things, NFTs are also all about community.” Through engagement with other Innovation Circle members, he says, “I really want to connect with thought leaders in this space and help them connect into the sports world because that’s what we’re truly passionate about.”