Sorare entered into similar partnerships with Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball earlier this year. These partnerships marked the company’s entry into the US market. Sorare also has licenses with more than 280 international soccer clubs in top leagues such as Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A.
Major League Baseball received a stake in Sorare as part of the deal announced in May. Ryan Spoon, Sorare’s chief operating officer, and Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s senior vice president of gaming and new ventures, would not say whether the NBA had taken a stake in Sorare as part of the partnership.
“The way I would describe it is that we are both very motivated to grow together and make it as successful, broad and big as possible” said Ryan Spoon, a former ESPN and BetMGM executive who joined Sorare in October 2021. “It’s in all of our interests“.
Scott Kaufman-Ross responsible for the NBA said: “We know Sorare is making an investment to build this platform. This is a new experience for fans, and we want to make sure there is enough time to build the product, the community and the fan base. This is a multi-year partnership with enough time to build a lasting partnership.“
Sorare NBA game will be accessible for free, participants will create teams based on individual players’ NFTs/cards. They will earn points based on their players’ performances on the court during NBA games.
“This (agreement) is an interesting hybrid in that it is an overlap between the fantasy sports space and the web3 and blockchain space“, said Kaufman-Ross. “Sorare sits at the intersection of two interesting trends – Web3 and fantasy sports. The notion of creating a new form of fantasy basketball that has real engagement with our game and also leverages Web3 is a great opportunity for our fans.“
The NBA and the NBPA, its players’ union, are familiar with fantasy sports and NFTs as separate categories. Specifically, they partnered with Dapper Labs in 2019 to develop NBA Top Shot, an NFT market that became popular last year as NBA fans and speculators flooded the market.
In February, there was a record $224.1 million in sales for a record average sale of $181.81 on the NBA Top Shot marketplace, according to CryptoSlam, but that has dropped off considerably. In August, there were just over $1 million in sales on NBA Top Shot for an average of $24, compared to $37.5 million and $45.01 in August 2021.
The NBA and NBPA view Sorare as an alternative to NBA Top Shot, not a competitor, because Sorare has a game element missing from Top Shot.
“We were looking for new ways to enter the category of games” said Josh Goodstadt, executive vice president of licensing at THINK450, the NBPA’s marketing and licensing arm. “We evaluated at least a dozen possibilities. For us, what we wanted to do was find something that differentiated itself from NBA Top Shot….. We felt that with Sorare’s track record of success, being leaders in the Web3 space, they just made the most sense for us to partner with.“
Sorare was founded in 2018 by Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, who worked together at Stratumn, a Paris-based financial technology company. Sorare raised $50 million in a Series A funding round in February 2021 and $680 million in a Series B round in September 2021 that valued the company at $4.3 billion.
SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate, led Sorare’s Series B round, which was the largest ever for a European startup. Sorare’s other investors include well-known venture capital firms such as Benchmark, Accel, D1 Capital, Bessemer Ventures and Seven Seven Six, led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Sorare claims to have two million registered users in 185 countries, about 20 percent of which are in the United States. The company has expanded its U.S. presence since late last year with the hiring of Spoon and other executives and employees. Spoon has strong relationships with U.S. professional sports leagues from his time at ESPN, where he was senior vice president of digital and social, and BetMGM, where he was chief operating officer. The company plans to expand in the U.S. and abroad.
“What I think about every day is that we have a big, robust game today that has a big community, a global community“, said Spoon. “The starting point was and is soccer. The priority is to continue to develop and deepen the community, the usage, the game. I think this partnership with the NBA fits perfectly with the other major leagues and the players.“