May 12, 2022
Tom VanHaarenESPN Staff Writer
- ESPN staff writer
- Joined ESPN in 2011
- Graduated from Central Michigan
Sports leagues and teams worldwide are working to attract younger people, improve engagement among fans and searching for ways to interact with and reach new audiences.
Major League Baseball is no different, and Thursday, the league announced a partnership with Sorare, an NFT gaming company, to launch an NFT-based fantasy-style game this summer.
Sorare will become the official NFT baseball game partner of MLB and will provide fans with a platform to play fantasy games while purchasing, selling and collecting NFTs of MLB players. It will differentiate itself from other fantasy games in that it won’t be a draft-style game. Teams will be built from the NFT cards that a particular fan owns.
“The connections we build with our fans are vital and Sorare understands the importance of that bond,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “The company’s focus on transforming fandom through an innovative combination of sports, technology and gaming to let fans truly own a piece of the game they love is unique and goes beyond borders — allowing us to bring the love of baseball to more fans across the globe.”
The final details of the games, awards and prizes haven’t been released, but Sorare has developed similar games for soccer leagues such as the Bundesliga, Copa America and Major League Soccer that included a variety of prizes for fans who collect NFTs. One instance saw fans win NFT cards that unlocked tickets to a game.
Some professional athletes have owned and sold their own cards in Sorare’s marketplace in past developments, which provides a unique angle for fans to engage and collect.
Part of the appeal for MLB was the 1.8 million registered users on Sorare’s platform, spanning 184 countries. It opens up the potential to connect with audience that baseball hasn’t been able to meaningfully reach in the past.
MLB has seen an annual decline in average attendance since 2007, when it saw 79.4 million fans drop to just 68.5 million in 2019. Attendance has been impacted due to COVID-19 since 2020, so those numbers wouldn’t be included in any data.
Sorare has seen a 32% month-on-month increase in active user growth and generated more than $325 million in sales in 2021 with an expectation to double it this year. Part of that success has been built off of partnerships with 247 soccer clubs and will now expand by adding MLB teams.
“Sorare has built a new baseball gaming experience that will excite fans around collecting players’ NFTs, building winning lineups and competing against baseball fans all over the world,” said Tony Clark, executive director of Major League Baseball Players Association. “We are very excited about our partnership and the effect Sorare’s first foray into North American sports will have on the growth of our game globally.”