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Moving with the times: A look at Brennan's “Perseverance Trail” NFT and partnership with Parity Now – FasterSkier.com – fasterskier.com

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On April 13th, Rosie Brennan wrote in an Instagram post, “The world is constantly changing and I’m trying to move with it.” The post announced the launch of an online auction for a limited edition NFT, in partnership with the organizations Parity Now and VereNFT. The NFT, titled “Perseverance Trail”, was designed by artist Kerri Schiff and features a mountainous ski trail with a variety of images of Brennan racing in her Team USA suit.
If you just read that introduction and thought, “Wait – what does any of that mean?”, you’re not alone. It’s a very new realm and can very quickly make you feel as though you’ve been transported into the Matrix.
For starters, NFT stands for “non-fungible token”. An NFT is a unique and non-interchangeable digital asset, typically a piece of digital art or music, that is stored on a blockchain and can be sold or traded via an online marketplace. A blockchain is more or less a virtual ledger for transactions in that marketplace, made across a secure network. To learn more, you’re better off heading to Forbes, or reading this helpful and entertaining article on The Verge.
When it comes to Brennan’s Perseverance Trail NFT specifically, the highest bidder on the auction is purchasing a unique piece of digital art, along with the exclusivity of that token.
“For our physical reality,” Brennan explained in a call,  “you’re purchasing that [digital] image and you are then the only one who then owns that. So I can’t reproduce it or sell it, or make it a poster. It is just that singular item.” 
For those who bid at different levels, regardless of whether they eventually own the NFT, Brennan has offered a tiered list of rewards: $100 gets you a signed athlete card, $500 for a signed World Cup bib, $1000 for a 30 minute Zoom session, and $2000 for a three-month personalized training plan. 
It’s an altogether different and very new avenue that an athlete might incorporate to support a career, and Brennan admitted to still being in the learning process. That said, she explained some of the factors that were intriguing about the proposition.
“Maybe the more interesting part about NFTs is that, because there is only one of them and it’s tracked, it has a digital footprint. So, if somebody buys it, I get some of the proceeds from [the sale] and the artist gets some and then Parity Now gets some. But every time it’s resold after that, I continue to get some of the proceeds. So that’s kind of different from a physical piece of art. When an artist sells a piece of art, that’s the only time they gain profit from it. If that [buyer] then resells it, the artist doesn’t get any benefit from that.”
Another unique aspect is that the value of the NFT may increase with time. “As we see in art, most artists don’t become famous until they’re dead.” Brennan laughed as she expressed that thankfully, athletes don’t need to wait quite as long, however, it remains unknown what they will accomplish during their career until it is finished, or what they may achieve in other spaces  afterward.
Ultimately, the NFT marketplace remains a nascent and still-developing platform for investment and trade, and it’s unclear how profitable this type of auction could be in the long term. Nevertheless, Brennan applauded Parity Now for offering women these non-traditional opportunities.
“It’s obviously very [new]… and so who knows what that really means, but I’m impressed that this organization is kind of pushing the boundaries in these areas and looking at different ways to create, not only like money for athletes, but just also awareness and marketing and hype.”
Taking a step back to how this came about, we’ll rewind to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, when Brennan found herself frequently riding the bus to and from the athlete village with American bobsledder Lauren Gibbs, who she described as “super outgoing and very friendly” and seemed to, coincidentally, be on a very similar schedule to the cross country ski team. After earning an Olympic silver medal in 2018 and a World Championship gold in 2020, Gibbs retired and became a spokesperson for Parity Now, an organization which advocates for equal pay, media representation, and opportunities for professional women athletes. Parity’s community of athletes includes more than 165 Olympians and Paralympians across more than 40 sports, all working together to “[propel] professional women athletes forward.”
When initially approached about the NFT opportunity, Brennan put the idea on hold. However, after seeing other women athletes on the marketplace and learning more about the process, she decided to give it a go.
From there, Brennan worked through a lengthy questionnaire to identify the aspects of her career and self that were most meaningful, to guide the artist in creating the design. Brennan also provided a wide variety of images of herself skiing to ensure the sport would be well-represented. She was then allowed to provide feedback throughout the process, until landing on a finalized piece of digital art
“It was cool to see an artistic interpretation of the values that I felt [were] meaningful in my ski career,” she said.
With athletes from all sports competing in the NFT marketplace, Brennan said she “really wanted to highlight what makes cross-country, in my opinion, different from other sports. And for me, one of those things is the fact that we’re doing all the events and all the techniques.” 
In the image, both skate and classic techniques are featured, along with a couple of fast tucks, in and out of the tracks. Brennan also wanted to feature the variation in terrain, in contrast to a more controlled environment like a running track, along with the natural beauty and challenge of a cross-country ski trail.
“I wanted that natural environment highlighted, which is the part I really like about mine — I think [the artist] did a great job making some really cool-looking mountains… And then to me, [Perseverance Trail] is such a great metaphor for life. Particularly my own [journey] in cross-country skiing that has just been so up and down, and maybe required a little more perseverance than others. And just using that analogy – that no two trails are the same. I don’t think anyone’s path in sports is the same either.
“And then, this fine balance of being present in the moment on a trail, but also having that adaptability and flexibility to deal with what the trail brings on any given day. Changing elements, changing snow, changing weather, and skis – all these [variables] that cross-country requires, and that are such an important aspect of life, really.”  
As for working with Parity Now more broadly, Brennan does aspire to partner with the group beyond this NFT project. She explained that she has already benefited from some of the webinars Parity offers to women athletes to equip them with the variety of business skills they might need to successfully support their career and ensure they’re well set up for life after sport. Brennan also explained that Parity can help connect athletes with other companies for work in social media and advertising campaigns, which she’d like to participate in down the road.
“It’s just neat to see different groups trying to tackle women’s equality from different angles,” she concluded. “And I think this business angle is actually a very important one. Lauren’s a real go-getter, and so I’m sure that there’s more good things to come from it.”
Parity Now cites research that estimates that, of the $66 billion global sports sponsorship market, only 0.4% goes to women. “You read that right,” Parity Now said. “For every dollar spent on sports sponsorship, women receive just half a cent.” 
As fans of cross-country skiing in the US, it might be easy to lose sight of this pervasive inequality faced by women in sport. We see Jessie Diggins’ face on magazine covers before the Olympics, equal opportunity for prize money on the World Cup, and a whole team of women ready to pop a Top-10 or podium on any given weekend. In fact, the results achieved by American women over the last decade-and-a-half have made it easy to forget that the U.S. Ski Team had dropped funding for the women’s program prior to 2006 — though we now have two books, World Class and Trail to Gold, to remind us of this journey.
Speaking to her experience in becoming one of the top women in the US program, Brennan said, “I feel very lucky to be an American woman skier. I think we have had a lot of really great opportunities. To be honest, I think in the last decade or so we’ve honestly overshadowed the boys and, if anything, they usually get the raw end of the deal. So that’s maybe been a unique perspective that we’ve had as women cross-country skiers, and something I definitely try not to take for granted. And it is interesting traveling on the World Cup, you do notice cultural differences and how countries treat men and women differently. And not all is good and not all as bad, it’s definitely different.
“From an international perspective, like on the World Cup, navigating that is challenging — figuring out what actually is equality and what that means to different people and different cultures, and how we implement that into the bigger scope of the world is definitely challenging.”
Brennan added that she felt Americans are “a little more progressive on that end”, which makes her proud to represent the U.S. Ski Team. She did point out that there is one very obvious source of inequality present at most levels of the sport: how far men and women race.
“That’s maybe the most glaring aspect in which men and women are not equal [in cross country skiing]. I’m definitely a proponent for equal distance and it sounds like, honestly, everyone’s moving in that direction. I actually think that change is coming faster than we all anticipated.”
Brennan serves as an elected athlete representative on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard cross-country sport committee and shared that equal distance will be a “big topic” at the upcoming annual congress. She also indicated that this is the case at the International Ski Federation level. “It’ll be interesting to see how that unfolds in the next month or so. But I definitely think it’s coming.”
Circling back to the NFT and what all of this means in the broader context of her career, Brennan concluded with both uncertainty and optimism. 
“I don’t know if it will become such a big thing that people are wanting to gamble on a young athlete in hopes that they make it big and their NFT becomes worth millions or something,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know if that’s what the future holds or not. But I definitely think it’s a cool way to bring awareness and promote women’s sports and take part in an interesting project.”
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646
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Starbucks details its blockchain-based loyalty platform and NFT community, Starbucks Odyssey – TechCrunch

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Starbucks is today officially introducing Starbucks Odyssey, launching later this year — the coffee chain’s first foray into building with web3 technology. The new experience combines the company’s successful Starbucks Rewards loyalty program with an NFT platform, allowing its customers to both earn and purchase digital assets that unlock exclusive experiences and rewards.
The company had earlier teased its web3 plans to investors, saying it believed this new experience would build on the current Starbucks Rewards model where customers today earn “stars” which can be exchanged for perks, like free drinks. It envisions Starbucks Odyssey as a way for its most loyal customers to earn a broader set of rewards while also building community.
To develop the project, Starbucks brought in Adam Brotman, the architect of its Mobile Order & Pay system and the Starbucks app, to help serve as a special advisor. Now the co-founder of Forum3, a web3 loyalty startup, Brotman’s team worked on Starbucks Odyssey alongside the Seattle coffee chain’s own marketing, loyalty and technology teams.
While Starbucks had been investigating blockchain technologies for a couple of years, it has only been involved in this particular project for around six months, Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer told TechCrunch. He says the company wanted to invest in this area, but not as a “stunt” side project, as many companies are doing. Rather, it wanted to find a way to use the technology to enhance its business and expand its existing loyalty program.
It opted to make NFTs the passes that allow access to this digital community, but it’s intentionally obscuring the nature of the technology underpinning the experience in order to bring in more consumers — including non-technical people — to the web3 platform.
“It happens to be built on blockchain and web3 technologies, but the customer — to be honest — may very well not even know that what they’re doing is interacting with blockchain technology. It’s just the enabler,” Brewer explains.
To engage with the Starbucks Odyssey experience, Starbucks Rewards members will log in to the web app using their existing loyalty program credentials.
Once there, they’ll be able to engage with various activities, which Starbucks called “journeys” — like playing interactive games or taking on challenges designed to deepen their knowledge of the Starbucks brand or coffee in general. As they complete these journeys, members can collect early digital collectibles in the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Starbucks Odyssey, however, does away with the tech lingo and calls these NFT collectibles “journey stamps” instead.
Additionally, a set of limited-edition NFTs will be available to purchase in the Starbucks Odyessy web app, which also works on mobile devices. Though hosted on the Polygon blockchain, these NFTs will be bought using a credit or debit card — a crypto wallet is not required. The company believes this will make it easier for consumers to engage with the web3 experience by lowering the barrier to entry. It also won’t complicate consumers’ transactions with things like “gas fees,” preferring to offer a bundled price.
The company is not yet ready to share what its NFTs will cost or how many will be available at launch, saying these are decisions that are still being ironed out.
However, the various “stamps” (NFTs) will include a point value based on their rarity and can be bought or sold among Starbucks Odyessy members in the marketplace, with the ownership secured on the blockchain. The artwork on the NFTs is being co-created by Starbucks and outside artists, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the limited-edition collectibles will be donated to support causes chosen by Starbucks employees and customers.
By collecting the stamps, members will gain points that can unlock exclusive benefits.
These perks go beyond those you can earn with a traditional Starbucks Rewards account and its “stars.” While today, members can earn things like free coffee, free food or select merchandise, the points earned in Starbucks Odyessy will translate into experiences and other benefits.

Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia. Image Credits: Starbucks(opens in a new window)
On the lower end, that could be a virtual espresso martini-making class or access to unique merchandise and artist collaborations. As you gain more points, you may earn invites to special events hosted at Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, or even earn a trip to the Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia coffee farm in Costa Rica. It’s expected the very largest perks will be reserved for those who purchase NFTs, though lesser versions may be offered to those who earn their way up.
For instance, a paid NFT could offer the full travel package and farm tour, while an earned NFT could offer the tour alone with flights and hotels left up to the user. Starbucks hasn’t made any formal decisions on this front, however.
But what the company can say is that it wants to deeply integrate the program with its existing loyalty rewards, beyond simply using the same user account credentials for both programs.
Brewer says Starbucks is already imagining how some of the activities that earn NFTs will be connected to real-world Starbucks purchases, for instance.
In Odyssey, users earn NFTs by doing challenges, which might also include a real-world activity like “try three things on the espresso menu.” This would require the user to show their barcode at checkout — as they would if earning stars — to have their transaction counted toward the Starbuck Odyssey challenge. The company is still determining what mix of games, challenges and quests it will include at launch.
“But we’ll have experiences that do link directly to customers’ behavior in our stores,” Brewer stresses. Most importantly, the company wants to make gaining NFTs something anyone can do — not just those with money to blow on digital collectibles, as is often the case with current NFT communities, which price out the average user.
“There will be a lot of ways for people to earn [rewards] without having to spend a lot of money,” says Brewer. “We want to make this super easy and accessible. There will be plenty of everyday experiences customers can earn like virtual classes or access to limited edition merchandise, for instance. “The range of experiences will be quite vast and very accessible,” he adds.
Starbucks says it explored all the different blockchains for the project but landed on the “proof-of-stake” blockchain technology built by Polygon for this effort because it uses less energy than first-generation “proof-of-work” blockchains, which is more in line with its conversation goals.

Image Credits: Starbucks (opens in a new window)
The idea to enter into the world of web3 makes sense for a company known for taking advantage of emerging technologies and making them more approachable and easy for consumers to access. In years past, Starbucks introduced Wi-Fi in its stores to encourage customers to spend more time during visits. It also pushed the idea of mobile wallets long before Apple Pay became ubiquitous. And it made mobile ordering the norm well ahead of the COVID pandemic, when other restaurant chains picked it up.
But one criticism leveraged against many traditional businesses when they enter the web3 market is that they’re approaching it as a marketing stunt, not a real endeavor. Starbucks, of course, argues that’s not the case here — but only time will tell how serious its interest may be.
“We’re bullish on the future of these technologies enabling experiences that were not possible before,” Brewer claims. The intention is to be flexible and move with the customers as the web3 market changes, he explains. “It’s really important that we’re looking at it for the long-term,” he continues. “But, given that we’re plugging it into our industry-leading, massive scale rewards program — we’re committed,” he says.
The company says its web3 platform will open its waitlist (waitlist.starbucks.com) on September 12 and will launch later in the year. It will remove the waitlist and open the platform more broadly sometime next year.

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Tyler Hobbs' Fidenza NFT Project Gets $1M Pump Over 48 hours – CoinDesk

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DOJ Asks Congress for Tools to Limit NFT Money-Laundering Risk – PYMNTS.com

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Down at the very bottom of the crypto crime report the Justice Department issued last week was a request that could make it a lot harder to buy and sell NFTs.
Citing examples of criminals using the sale of the popular nonfungible tokens that hold art, video, music and collectibles to launder funds, the Justice Department asked Congress to define some of all NFTs as “value that substitutes for currency” under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).
Doing so, it said in “The Role of Law Enforcement in Detecting, Investigating, and Prosecuting Criminal Activity Related to Digital Assets,” would “make clear that its key [anti-money-laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terror (CFT)] provisions — including the obligations to have customer identification programs and report suspicious transactions to regulators — apply to NFT platforms, including online auction houses and digital art galleries.”
See also: DOJ Seeks to Double Jail Time for Money Transmission Crimes
The impetus, the department said, is the “explosive growth in the demand and corresponding markets for NFTs, perhaps most notably in the area of digital art.”
Substantial Risk
This “presents substantial money-laundering risks,” it said, citing a February Treasury Department study on money laundering in the broader art market.
“NFTs can be used to conduct self-laundering, a sequence in which criminals purchase an NFT with illicit funds and then resell to a purchaser who pays for it with clean funds unconnected to a prior crime,” that report noted.
It also found that in most cases, “digital assets that are unique, rather than interchangeable, and that are used in practice as collectibles rather than as payment or investment instruments … are generally not considered to be virtual assets under [international regulations].”
The “nonfungible” part of NFT means that each is unique and cannot substitute for any other, as opposed to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin which all have the same uses and value.
NFT marketplaces “may take the view that this definition [of a ‘value that substitutes for currency’] does not apply to their activities — and that they are thus not subject to the BSA’s anti money-laundering and anti-terrorism laws, the department said.
Justice is asking Congress to amend the BSA “to make clear that its key AML/CFT provisions — including the obligations to have customer identification programs and report suspicious transactions to regulators — apply to NFT platforms, including online auction houses and digital art galleries.”
Already There
Redefining NFTs as “value that substitutes for currency” would allow the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Unit (FinCEN) to “potentially seek to regulate such activity under its money transmission regime,” a trio of lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom wrote in an April blog post.
That, according to Jamie Boucher, Eytan Fisch and Javier Urbina, would require NFT marketplaces to register as money services businesses (MSB) with FinCEN.
Some types of NFTs — notably those used to fractionalize tangible assets like physical artworks and real estate, but also other valuable art or collectible tokens — are likely securities, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has said.
See more: How Did NFTs Become SEC’s Newest Crypto Target?
In FinCEN’s view, the trio noted, those can be repurposed to fit the definition of “value that substitutes for currency” and thus may already require MSB licenses.
 
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