The digitization of fan engagement and opportunities to come

The 2021 summer Olympics look a little different than past years. Due to a recent COVID-19 spike in Tokyo, the majority of events have banned fans from filling the stands.

What we’ve learned after over a year of disruption to live sporting events is that the energy from a live crowd can contribute greatly to a crowd’s TV viewing experience. Organizations and athletes are now turning to technology to implement out-of-the-box solutions that bring fans and athletes together in new ways.

Virtual fans

Olympic organizers have kicked off two initiatives that allow family and fans to be with them from afar. The “Share the Passion” project has enabled fans to upload support videos and messages on social media.

Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) have also launched an online “cheer map” and “fan video wall” which allows fans to send in selfie videos that can be screened or broadcasted. 

Social media giants like Facebook have also introduced fan engagement tools including a dedicated Games hub, AR effects for Stories, and video highlights.

Fans are having to get comfortable participating in games virtually, creating new opportunities for technology to bridge the gap.

Breaking the 4th wall through TikTok & other social media

Being an Olympian is a huge feat but with 11,656 listed athletes participating in this year’s games, not all of them are household names. 

With the COVID-19 restrictions preventing athletes from engaging with each other and their fans in person, athletes are doubling down on ways to interact online. 

As a result — the Olympics are dominating social media platforms like TikTok right now. Athletes are offering transparent windows into their day to day routines in Tokyo, giving us insider clips of the coveted cardboard beds, and unveiling a path to grow their personal brands based on personality in addition to their athleticism.

Engaging with fans in this unfiltered manner is breaking the fourth wall and we believe fans will continue to search for experiences that connect them to their favorite athletes in authentic ways.

The rising value of personal brands

Name, Image, and Likeness “NIL” has been trending over the last two years, especially since the new NCAA rules that came out in July enabling college athletes in the U.S. to profit off their NIL from endorsements, sponsorships and a variety of other business ventures.

NIL has also been a point of contention in the Olympics. In 2019, the International Olympic Committee “IOC” amended Rule 40 to allow Olympic athletes to profit from non-Olympic partner companies, brands, or other organizations during the Olympic Games Period, but with restrictions. 

These changes are beginning to shape an entirely new advertising and endorsement landscape for athletes and their approach. Typically, Olympic athletes earn their living from sponsorships, commercial endorsements, medal bonuses and some get annual stipends. 

The rise in value for personal brands and an athlete’s ability to become an influencer outside of their sport alone creates a wider pool of potential revenue streams. 

As an athlete captures more fan attention both on and off the field, more teams, sponsors, and endorsement opportunities may arise to maximize results. 

GFX serving athletes

With the increasing mediums for athletes to build a loyal fan base in and out of their sport, the chance to build a distinct brand and maintain interesting fan engagement seems more crucial than ever.

Led by established leaders across sports and entertainment including Pitbull, SME 360, and other pioneers being announced in the coming weeks, we believe Global Fan Exchange “GFX” fits perfectly into this next generation of fan engagement. 

On GFX, fans can browse opportunities to purchase ownership shares in their favorite athlete ventures.

Using Upstream, the Horizon-powered digital exchange and trading app, fans will be able to trade eligible shares with other fans from around the world for as little as $25, receive potential dividends and royalties, and purchase memorabilia as NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

We aim to give athletes the tools to accelerate their financial independence at the onset of their careers and capitalize on their social media presence.

Concluding thoughts

There is an evolution of sports and fan engagement that will not go away even when the pandemic gets under control. 

The digitization of fan engagement will continue to shape how fans interact with athletes and how athletes interact with fans. We believe it will ultimately usher in a new wave of opportunities for athletes to generate revenue streams and connect with their biggest fans.

The power behind GFX represents the type of creativity that can come from the changing sports ecosystem. Interested parties can learn more at or reach the team at


GFX is not a registered broker dealer and will not take commission based fees. Securities transactions are conducted through registered broker dealers in the United States and internationally on Upstream, which is a MERJ Exchange market. MERJ Exchange is a licensed Securities Exchange, an affiliate of the World Federation of Exchanges and full member of ANNA.

Upstream is a MERJ Exchange market. MERJ Exchange is a licensed Securities Exchange, an affiliate of the World Federation of Exchanges and full member of ANNA. MERJ supports global issuers of traditional and digital securities through the entire asset life cycle from issuance to trading, clearing, settlement and registry. It operates a fair and transparent marketplace in line with international best practice and principles of operations of financial markets. Upstream does not endorse or recommend any public or private securities bought or sold on its app. Upstream does not offer investment advice or recommendations of any kind. All services offered by Upstream are intended for self-directed clients who make their own investment decisions without aid or assistance from Upstream. Customers must comply with applicable law of their own jurisdiction. By accessing the site or app, you agreed to be bound by its terms of use and privacy policy. Company and security listings on Upstream are only suitable for investors who are familiar with and willing to accept the high risk associated with speculative investments, often in early and development stage companies. There can be no assurance the valuation of any particular company’s securities is accurate or in agreement with the market or industry comparative valuations. Investors must be able to afford market volatility and afford the loss of their investment. Companies listed on Upstream are subject to significant ongoing corporate obligations including, but not limited to disclosure, filings and notification requirements, as well compliance with applicable quantitative and qualitative listing standards.


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