Gary Vaynerchuk has built his career around identifying and capitalizing on major digital trends early, from the nascent days of e-commerce to the rise of social media.
His next big bet is on nonfungible tokens (NFTs), cemented on Wednesday with the launch of VaynerNFT, a consultancy to help brands plan, strategize and execute on NFT strategies.
Budweiser, a longtime customer of VaynerMedia, has signed on as the group’s flagship client. Former APAC head at VaynerX Avery Akkineni will run the new group.
“Over the last six months, it became clear to me that NFTs were going to become a real consumer trend in perpetuity,” Vaynerchuk told Campaign US.
To learn about the NFT space hands-on, Vaynerchuk launched his own NFT project in May called VeeFriends, which sells digital tokens based on characters and intellectual property that Vaynerchuk sketched himself. The NFTs double as an all-access pass to Vaynerchuk’s new annual super conference, VeeCon. So far, the project has sold $50 million worth of coins.
Now, the serial entrepreneur is ready to partner with brands on NFTs, which he thinks “once fully understood, will change the way brands market.”
Budweiser is also bullish on NFTs, despite the hype. According to Richard Oppy, VP of global brands at Budweiser parent Anheuser-Busch InBev, NFTs are a huge opportunity for a brand that's been synonymous with art, music, sports and culture for decades.
“We see this as a great opportunity to add even more value to our fans,” he said. “We can invite influencers and fans to join experiences with us, and we now have a great technology in NFTs to bring this to life.”
VaynerNFT will work with Budweiser and other clients to educate them on NFTs’ potential for marketing, while also strategizing launch plans for long-term NFT projects. The group will help brands think through which blockchain to use, how to build a community around NFT projects and generate a PR strategy to grow excitement.
VaynerNFT will also connect brands with vendors to build NFT projects and help them develop a strategy for driving revenue from royalties.
“So much of the economics on these projects come on the resale of the royalty,” Vaynerchuk said, adding that VeeFriends generated $1.9 million in royalty fees just last week on resales.
For Vaynerchuk, the success of an NFT project is all about the community you build around it. VeeFriends, for example, has a Discord channel with 150,000 followers. “What NFTs can do is create monetary value around brands,” he said.
Still, for most brands, NFTs are very much still in the hype phase. Just 5% to 10% of brands are “heavily intrigued,” Vaynerchuk said, including AB InBev. “There's probably five to seven other brands that have the executives and culture to do something about it. 2021 will be about those five brands, but in 2022, you'll see a lot more people enter as this gets validation.”
AB InBev recently released an NFT project under Stella Artois for National Fried Chicken Day. The brewer sees opportunities for NFTs to play a role in everything from limited edition packaging and merchandise drops, to access to exclusive experiences, to the ability to purchase collectible items and store them in digital wallets.
“It's still early days, but we don't see this as a fad,” Oppy said. “They won't all work, but you have to be prepared to fail to win. So we'll learn along the way.”