On Friday, September 21, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the San Diego Padres, ultimately losing 5–3. But never mind the score. The first 40,000 people to arrive at the game got free Dodgers bobbleheads—either Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, or Kenley Jansen. These were no ordinary bobbleheads, however. You could not hold them in your hand nor put them on your desk at work (as some Twitter users complained). These were virtual bobbleheads that live on the Ethereum network.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) September 22, 2018
According to a press release from the MLB describing “Digital Bobblehead Night,” this marked the first crypto-related giveaway in Major League Baseball. Those extra lucky 40,000 fans received cards featuring the codes corresponding to their unique, virtual bobbleheads, which gave them the information needed to “unlock” the bobbleheads and place them in their Ethereum wallets. (Surely no Dodgers fan is without an Ethereum wallet, right?)
Baseball has one of the older audiences of all major, professional sports in the country, according to a Magna Global study. In 2016, the average age of the MLB TV viewer was 57, older than that of the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS (in descending order), but younger than your average golf, tennis, and NASCAR watcher. Meanwhile, a January survey conducted by SurveyMonkey and the Global Blockchain Business Council put the majority of “bitcoin investors” between the ages of 18 and 34. Ethereum is even lesser known than bitcoin, so it seems like a bit of a leap that even a majority of the 40,000 Dodgers fans given bobblehead tokens will know what to do with them.
“A fair number of older people go to the game early,” said Randy Saaf, CEO at Lucid Sight, the studio that developed the bobbleheads and is also behind the MLB-licensed crypto player tokens (which is kind of like a cross between digital baseball cards and fantasy baseball, as each player-token’s stats get updated with every passing game). “Quite a few were coming up to us [he and his team were wearing shirts that said ‘crypto baseball’] and asking who was on their cards, because they could only see via scanning them with our app.” Citing “app fatigue,” Saaf told BREAKER he figured a lot of people just didn’t want to bother downloading the MLB Crypto Baseball app, where a QR code would show them which of the three players they got. Even fewer, presumably, would make it to Ethereum wallet.
Still, most people who got a card at least wanted to know who was on it, “and if they had Clayton Kershaw they were excited about it,” said Saaf. He also witnessed a man sitting in his section during the game who was buying “every card he could” for $2 a piece. Later that night, the cards were reselling for $20 each on eBay. As of this writing, bidding for a Dodgers bobblehead crypto token on eBay is at $34.33. The bidding is open until Thursday, and 20 bids have come in so far.
“The most telling thing was that nobody would give anybody their card for free, and to me that’s the litmus test of value,” Saaf told BREAKER. “They would only part with them for $2—not $1, but $2.”
A woman named Marie asked to buy the cards on Twitter because she didn’t make it to the Friday game, but she told BREAKER via Twitter that no one’s offered to sell yet. A friend of hers did go to the game, though, where he found around ten cards people had dropped on the floor. He picked them up.
Dodgers fan Jeff didn’t get to go to the Friday game either, but did go on Sunday, where he got a tangible Orel Hershiser bobblehead. When I asked Jeff through Twitter if he’d know how to get his virtual bobblehead token into an Ethereum wallet, he wrote that the idea makes him “want to learn more about cryptocurrency, but it seems difficult.”
“Personally I understood why the Dodgers were doing it,” a Dodgers fan named Randi, who was at the game Friday, told BREAKER in a Twitter DM. “They’re trying to reach every market of their fan base and with blockchain becoming more mainstream and popular they are just trying to make sure they meet the need of all fans. Most fans were upset by it because they wanted the real thing. I think it’s cool they did it as long as they don’t get rid of the real bobbleheads. Most people didn’t know what to do with it.”
Join us on Friday for the first-ever Digital Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium! The first 40,000 fans will receive a @ClaytonKersh22, @redturn2 or @kenleyjansen74 Crypto token to be downloaded and added to their Ethereum wallet.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 19, 2018
Ultimately, Saaf and team are creating and distributing these virtual bobbleheads because they “believe in the future of digital ownership,” and think it’s important to get crypto assets into the hands of regular people, as opposed to keeping them solely between the tech-savvy. After all, Lucid Sight did get 40,000 baseball fans to at least momentarily hold onto a “paper” token on Friday. Through its partnership with the MLB and the MLB Players Association, the company hopes to create promotions like this with other teams, as well.
The Dodgers leadership seems appropriately unsure as to whether the tokens will go over well with fans. “We hope this piques the interest of Dodger fans and will help launch a new age of digital collectibles and promotions,” said the team’s EVP and chief marketing office, Lon Rosen, in the release.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a bunch of not-so-tech-savvy people who are open to accepting free things, a baseball game could be just the right a venue.