Put Your Money Where the Movement Is
How athletes, influencers, and creators will forever change alternative investing
2020 was a year defined by movements. There were seismic shifts in behaviors, attitudes, and trust towards things, people, and institutions. It was a year that opened up people’s minds to who and what to trust.
In some circles, bitcoin is more trustworthy than the dollar, the historical foundation of global monetary trust and stability.
Countless NBA and NFL players have stepped up as leaders to serve their communities in ways that our politicians never have.
In a year where people’s views have radically changed, it’s no coincidence that people’s views on investing - and particularly what to invest in - have evolved as well.
Investing has become more social than ever. Some crypto enthusiasts have jokingly said that a “bunch of nerds have managed to meme a new global reserve currency into existence.” Not bad considering that their calls to “HODL” have helped bitcoin reach a market cap that is now almost 7% of gold.
Investing has become more mainstream than ever. It is now easier than ever for individuals to invest into everything from a private equity fund to a startup to a classic car to a LeBron James rookie card.
We have witnessed a retailization of most asset classes, such that mainstream investors have come to expect - if not demand - access to all types of investable assets.
There have been prior eras where investors have demanded access to new investable assets.
But something feels different this time.
What’s changed? The convergence of social and cultural trends with the financialization of everything.
Investors don’t just want to own an asset, they want to be part of a movement.
Recent FinTech innovations have paved the way for financialization of everything.
Robinhood made it easy for people to invest into stocks at the click of a button. This has opened up people’s minds to the possibility of investing into any asset with a single click.
Republic has since followed suit with access to one-click investing into private companies, effectively creating a Robinhood-like experience for private markets.
Coinbase has opened minds for a broad swathe of consumers to invest into crypto and made it as easy as investing into stocks out of a brokerage account.
Rally Rd, Otis, Collectable have made it just as easy for investors to own a fractional share of a Michael Jordan or Hank Aaron rookie card as it is for them to buy a fractional shares of blue-chip stocks on Stash.
Much like what Coinbase has done for crypto, Alt is doing the same for trading cards. Alt is building the necessary market infrastructure to enable consumers and professional sports card investors to invest, track, and store their card assets.
Athletes as cultural icons
At the same time, social media has democratized access to social and cultural icons. Platforms like Twitter and Clubhouse have enabled people to feel close to social and cultural stars.
This is a time where we have seen athletes become much more than the name on the back of their jerseys. It has shown the “power of athletes speaking truth to power,” as Kimberley Martin so eloquently said.
Their brands transcend far beyond what they do between the lines.
If this year has proven anything, it’s shown that what professional athletes do outside the lines can have as much impact on people as what they do in the game.
From NBA stars foregoing their very commercial identity - the names on the back of their jerseys - to instead post social justice messages like “Black Lives Matter,” “Equality,” “How Many More?” to NFL and NBA players forcing open their stadiums to voters for the 2020 elections, they are using their brands to catalyze their fans to spring into action.
They are cultural icons. People want to follow their lead.
And what are they doing when it comes to the world of investing? “Equity deals only,” as DeAndre Hopkins would say. They are investing into companies, building brands off the field, and owning stakes in sports teams.
I don’t think we can understate the significance of what athlete and influencer involvement in investing means for the financialization of everything.
Investing in a trading card will soon have as much significance as investing in a share of Apple or Microsoft
Investing in a LeBron James or Russell Wilson rookie card will soon come to have as much significance as investing in a share of Apple or Microsoft - both from a cultural and financial perspective.
LeBron James has 77.5 million Instagram followers, which is over 3x more than Apple’s Instagram follower count. Russell Wilson has 4.9 million Instagram followers, which is 2 million more than his Seattle counterparts, Microsoft and Amazon.
The power and reach that these athletes and influencers have is undeniable - and their level of influence parallels that of a major public company.
Trading cards are to athletes as stocks are to companies
Trading cards are to athletes as stocks are to companies. Everything they do on - and off - the field can have a positive or negative impact on the value of their card.
And now fans and followers can support them not just by rooting for them on Sundays or drafting them for their fantasy sports leagues, but by investing into their trading cards just like they have invested into Apple stock because they use an iPhone.
Part of the magic of cards, and the financialization of trading cards as an asset, is that it combines a number of elements that are rarely present with other investable assets.
(1) a cultural asset for fans who love watching a sport or player.
(2) a financial asset for investors who are seeking exposure into an uncorrelated asset class.
(3) a consumer good that people can buy for entertainment or non-financial reasons.
(4) a fantasy sports / gambling activity that draws on aspects of fantasy sports and gambling on player performance in a data-driven, fan-led way.
And sports cards may be just the start of this market. Sure, athletes are creators, but so too are musicians, artists, influencers, and entrepreneurs.
Kim Kardashian and Jay-Z are certainly cultural icons that many people know of and follow. Did you know that there are Kim Kardashian rookie cards and Jay-Z Topps rookie cards that people are buying and selling as an investment asset?
Maybe it’s not long before we not only see the cards of influencers and creators exist as an investable asset, but also business cards or trading cards of famous entrepreneurs or societal icons like Dr. Anthony Fauci, as Alexis says below.
It may seem hard to comprehend why people would want to invest into trading cards of creators, influencers, and entrepreneurs.
Fandom and following leaders remain an innate part of our cultural construct, as reflected in how we express our love of sports through trading cards. Why not the same experience for other types of influencers and creators who have a following?
Millennials and Gen Z don’t just want to be bystanders when it comes to culture and movements; they want to be actively involved.
Athletes and influencers represent the movement.
Alt goes mainstream because followers and fans can now put their money where the movement is.
There’s even more to this story. Check back next week for why I think athletes, influencers, and creators can become an even bigger part of making alt go mainstream.
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