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Why the PBA Is Putting Bowling Awards On-Chain With Avalanche NFTs

source-logo  decrypt.co 22 May 2023 13:34, UTC

Bowl a perfect game? Soon, your buddies won’t simply have to take your word for it—you’ll be able to show off a tokenized achievement, minted as an NFT on the Avalanche blockchain by the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA).

The PBA and parent company Bowlero today announced the launch of League Bowler Certification (LBC) Awards, which are NFT-based honors to recognize bowling feats that will be airdropped free to the approximately 300,000 participants in Bowlero center leagues.

The “digital awards,” as the PBA calls them, cannot be traded or sold once received, making them soulbound tokens. In that sense, these are not typical NFT collectibles—Bowlero Chief Strategy Officer Lev Ekster described the LBC initiative as “a loyalty program on steroids.”

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Initially, the program will comprise NFT awards for achievements such as a league player bowling their first 200-score game, a perfect 300 game, a series of 700 or 800 total points, or notching a game with either 50 or 100 points over the player’s average.

Ekster said that the PBA used to give out physical awards for certain milestones in leagues, including rings, but that it had stopped at some point—to the consternation of some dues-paying players. “They were pretty disappointed about it,” he admitted.

Bowlero and the PBA collaborated with Layer 3 Labs to launch the initiative. Layer 3 CEO Jonathan Teplitsky said the startup specializes in bringing Web2 brands into Web3, but Ekster admitted that the physical sport-centric PBA’s move is more like “Web1 to Web3—we’re making a pretty giant leap as an organization.”

Artwork from one of the PBA's digital awards. Image: PBA

The PBA will use a dedicated Avalanche subnet to handle the digital awards for bowlers, which insulates it from potential congestion or issues with the broader network. Layer 3 worked with the Avalanche founders and core contributors at Ava Labs on the implementation, and Teplitsky said that he wanted to choose a network partner that “doesn’t have reputational risks.”

Bowlers were already onboarded onto the PBA’s LeaguePals platform to be eligible to receive the digital awards, and they will not need to handle cryptocurrency to receive the NFTs. Ekster said that the PBA won’t use “NFT” terminology in describing the assets for its user base.

“Our community doesn't know what an NFT is,” he told Decrypt. “They're not really crypto-native and they don't understand it, but we call them digital awards.”

Handing out digital awards is just the first phase of the program, though. In the next phase, the PBA will offer up earnable points that can be redeemed for physical products—like bowling balls and equipment—or even physical trophies for certain achievements. Avalanche will be used to verify the authenticity of an achievement to determine eligibility for physical perks.

Teplitsky sees potential future extensions of the program, such as the ability to bring bowlers’ progress and perks into a metaverse game world, or even unlock real-world benefits—like getting special lighting on your lane when bowling at a Bowlero center.

And the broader goal is not to limit this specifically to Bowlero leagues, but to eventually offer the program to leagues at all bowling alleys across America or potentially the world. But since it’s a new initiative, Ekster said that they will keep it internal within Bowlero leagues for now to fine-tune the execution and make sure all goes according to plan.

If it works as intended and expands out broadly, then Teplitsky sees potential for the PBA’s digital awards program to onboard millions of bowlers into Web3. That’s a more exciting premise to him than pushing another NFT project targeted at high-value traders.

“This is why I like to work with companies, not ‘projects.’ This is the real world, where this is a real business. Valero is valued at billions of dollars, and they are integrating Web3 into a business model. This is the future,” he said. “We're not bringing in the same old Web3 people that are trading their Bored Apes.”