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Julien Romanetto (The Smurfs' Society): "NFTs allow brands to change their approach".

Julien Romanetto (The Smurfs' Society): "NFTs allow brands to change their approach".

After months of development and teasing, the NFTs collection based on the Smurfs licence is now available for sale. Its boss, Julien Romanetto, explains the aim of the project and its strategy.

The Big Whale: You've been in the web3 ecosystem for a few years. How did the idea of making a collection of NFTs based on the Smurfs come about?

Julien Romanetto: It's a coincidence. I live in Brussels, and I had the opportunity to meet the owners of the rights to... Smurfs. Like everyone else, I was familiar with the story of these little blue characters, but nothing more.

It was during discussions with the rights holders that I realised that the fame of the Smurfs combined with the very community-based nature of NFTs could result in something quite brilliant. That's how the project came about.

How did you convince the rights holders to give you the licence?

The rights holders were already in discussions with a Chinese NFTs project, but I managed to convince them to work with us, and to give us the rights to the digital assets.

I know the sector well, having followed the development of the first major collections such as Bored Ape and CryptoPunks, so I have some ideas and a fairly clear vision of what is possible with such a powerful brand.

After months of development and teasing, the NFTs collection that exploits the Smurfs licence is now available for sale. Its boss, Julien Romanetto, tells us more about the aim of the project and its strategy.

The Big Whale: You've been in the web3 ecosystem for a few years. How did the idea of making a collection of NFTs based on the Smurfs come about?

Julien Romanetto: It's a coincidence. I live in Brussels, and I had the opportunity to meet the owners of the rights to... Smurfs. Like everyone else, I was familiar with the story of these little blue characters, but nothing more.

It was during discussions with the rights holders that I realised that the fame of the Smurfs combined with the very community-based nature of NFTs could result in something quite brilliant. That's how the project came about.

How did you convince the rights holders to give you the licence?

The rights holders were already in discussions with a Chinese NFTs project, but I managed to convince them to work with us, and to give us the rights to the digital assets.

I know the sector well, I followed the development of the first major collections such as Bored Ape and CryptoPunks, so I have some ideas and a fairly clear vision of what is possible with such a powerful brand.

What agreement have you negotiated?

We have a contract that can be renewed every three years. It's a classic licensing agreement where the rights holders receive royalties on each sale of NFTs. As long as the royalties reach a minimum level, the contract is renewed. If this is not the case, the rights holders can decide to terminate it.

Don't they fear that you'll distort the licence and the image of the Smurfs?

Of course we can't do whatever we want with the Smurfs, even though they've given us a lot of freedom.

Honestly, we've been impressed by their openness and their vision of things. They understand that, to last, brands have to adapt and change their approach. That's why we worked with some very innovative artists.

The Smurfs date back to the 1950s. How did you manage to adapt and respect the codes of the Web3 universe?

This was one of the challenges of our project: taking a brand that was already well established and natively distant from Web3 and making it attractive to the NFT community.

Yesterday you started selling the collection. What makes you think the project will work?

In Web3 and more specifically in NFTs, the community is key. The Smurfs brand is perfect for this, for several reasons: firstly because everyone knows it, secondly because it conveys positive values, such as protecting the environment. And finally it's very easy to identify with a Smurf, because they all have a particular characteristic that can resemble us, which is a huge advantage over many collections.

The sinews of war for collections is to offer exclusive experiences. What are you planning to do about this?

This is indeed the key point. As soon as the Smurfs have all been bought, we're going to start with a great treasure hunt designed, believe me, by a master of the game. Much of the game will take place from July onwards in The Sandbox metaverse.

A priori, this should be the best-endowed treasure hunt in crypto history. I can't give you the amount yet, but we should be close to a million dollars. To access it, you'll obviously need to hold an NFT from the collection.

We'll also soon be announcing collaborations with brands and celebrities. Holders of a Chess Smurf could have the right to take on the world chess champion. Gamer Smurf could take on the members of Cloud9, one of the biggest e-sports teams in the world. We're going to offer unique experiences for each Smurf. In fact, I'm currently negotiating for owners of the basketball Smurf to be able to meet NBA player Carmelo Anthony.

How many Smurf NFTs have you created?

We've created 200 Smurfs, all of which have been designed "by hand", and come in 50 different characteristics. Some are blue, others red or gold. The background also changes. In all, there will be 12,500 NFTs, some of which will be created as we go along via collaborations with artists and our own community.

As they are aimed at adults and fans of NFTs, we have made sure that the characters are very "cool" and in tune with their time. There's an e-sport Smurf, a crypto fan, a Rambo Smurf and so on. There are a lot of references to Web3 and the 1980s.

Who designed these Smurfs?

It was our studio. A total of eight people managed the 3D design of the various Smurfs. Daft Punk's artistic director, Cédric Hervet, was also part of the adventure. He has given the collection a real identity. In total, we've had around twenty people working on the project for 9 months.

Isn't your team oversized? Isn't that a lot for a collection launch?

We're not developing simple "PFPs" (NFTs specially designed to be used as profile images on social networks, editor's note). Our aim is to create works of art, which explains our use of 3D.

We also went looking for several artists, such as the graffiti artist André Saraiva, or Richard Orlinski who is undoubtedly one of the most highly-rated French contemporary artists at the moment.

Some of the Smurfs in the collection were made by these artists. These artist-linked NFTs - which will go on sale at a later date - will allow people to meet them, access their showrooms, preview sales or discounts.

How did you finance the project? The first phase of sales has just started...

The project cost €2 million. Two-thirds was financed by myself and Frédéric Montagnon (*). A few friends and family helped us with the rest. It's a big budget that we financed collectively thanks to some interesting exits we've made in recent years...

How did you set the price of the NFTs for the launch? It's never easy to set the value of a collection...

Indeed! If you set the price too high, you run the risk of not selling the NFTs, and if you set the price too low, you're selling off the value of your collection... To determine the price, we were inspired by what was done by the Doodles collection with the "bucket auction" system.

We first put 3000 Smurfs up for sale. Until tomorrow (20 April, editor's note) the 3,000 people who make the best bids will be sure to win the NFTs on sale. The base price of the NFTs will be the one paid by the 3,000th person.

To still reward those who bet more, there will be a bonus system with potentially several NFTs. The others will be refunded. I like this method because it gives everyone something to play for.

And what about the other NFTs?

500 have been reserved for the team and between 500 and 1500 have been pre-sold (this number will depend on the price of the bucket auction). 5000 will be reserved for those who played the game we organised on the Polygon blockchain, which recently came to an end. Here too, we organised a treasure hunt. Everyone had to collect ingredients from the game and mix them together, which you could use to obtain a crystal.

These crystals offer guaranteed access to the Smurfs sale. Depending on the rarity of the crystal won, you get a discount of 15% to 80% on the NFT price that will have been set at the "bucket auction". In just a few months, we've brought together 80,000 players who have carried out 3 million transactions!

Finally, we keep between 2,500 and 3,500 NFTs for future collaborations. But in the end, there will only be 12,500.

What are the great collections that inspire you?

I admire what Bored Ape have done. Their marketing is solid and their storytelling very successful. They certainly have a lot of resources, which makes things easier, but they execute particularly well. Their big challenge is their arrival in the metaverse with 'The Otherside'. We'll be following that with interest.

Other players?

I also really like RTFKT, they've done a lot, maybe even too much. Between the Rimowa deal, the metavers and Nike, it's a bit confusing. Conversely, there are projects like the Azuki or MoonBirds collections that aren't doing much.

They've made a lot of cash, but aren't supporting their community enough. We need to reward people, offer them experiences...

(*) Individual minority shareholder in The Big Whale.

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