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  • DFL extends deals with Sorare and Topps
  • New partnership with OneFootball covers static and video clip-based NFTs

The German Football League (DFL) has awarded licences worth in excess of €170 million (US$179m) for stickers, trading cards, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to three companies, an increase of 280 per cent on its previous deals

Starting from the 2023/2024 season, digital soccer platform OneFootball will be an official partner of the Bundesliga and have the right to create digital trading cards and video ‘moments’ NFTs that can be collected, traded and sold on its Aera marketplace.

Meanwhile, Sorare will have the exclusive rights to use NFTs based on Bundesliga players in a blockchain fantasy game, extending an initial two year deal agreed last October, and Topps gains the rights to create physical digital stickers and trading card game and NFT equivalents.

All three NFT-related deals will last for two years through to the 2024/2025 season, with Topps’ physical deal lasting until 2028/29.

“We couldn’t have imagined when we first started working with the Bundesliga that we would build the partnership and achieve official partner status,” said Lucas von Cranach, founder and chief executive of OneFootball.

“Now as official partner of this incredible organisation, one of the most innovative leagues in the world, we have the chance to build an even longer-term relationship that gives us the chance to take tens of millions of football supporters from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0.

“As a founder and as a fan this is fantastic for our organisation and for fans around the globe. Our vision is to connect the world of football and amplify the game. This long-term relationship means we can do just this, giving fans the opportunity to own digital assets – so they have more access, more ownership and get even closer to the game we all love, in a way that’s never been done before. And where better to do this than with one of the best leagues in the world which is home to so many of the most exciting players.”

The deal strengthens OneFootball’s ambition of becoming a major player in the emerging market for sports-based Blockchain products. It believes its 300 million-strong user base and partnerships with some of the leading players in the space mean it is well positioned to become a market leader – especially with US$300 million in fresh funding secured earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the partnership marks an evolution in the Bundesliga’s nascent NFT strategy and provides additional revenues for clubs across its two divisions.

At the recent SportsPro Live event, Bundesliga International chief executive Robert Klein said the relatively short-term deals reflected what was a rapidly-evolving market, as well as being designed to ensure that the DFL fulfilled its obligations to both clubs and fans.

“I didn’t know the acronym ‘NFT’ until Match 2021 [with] the partnership between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Dapper Labs for NBA Top Shot,” he said. “I think everyone involved in sport and media saw this [and took note].

“We decided to make sure we became as expert about the technology as we could and if we didn’t know something, we would go and ask other people who knew the answers.

“How do we package [these rights] so we maximise the revenue we need for the clubs but also structure it in a way that we’re taking care of the fans and all the concerns that come with NFTs?

“We believe we’ve managed that… there’s a separation we’ve made between static NFTs and ‘moments’ which are more like NBA Top Shot.

“We’re still treading cautiously [and in two years’ time is] the end of the domestic TV cycle. The space is always evolving and I’m sure the packaged we’ll be selling in two years’ time will be fundamentally different.”