Today, NFT fantasy sports platform Sorare announced the appointment of footballer Lionel Messi as Sorare’s brand ambassador. The partnership aims to accelerate Sorare’s growth. As the biggest star in Argentina’s soccer team, the timing on the eve of the FIFA World Cup 2022 couldn’t be better.
Powered by non-fungible tokens, Sorare is a fantasy game that is free to play. Players can manage a virtual team of NFTs, as well as buy, sell and trade digital player cards. The French start-up has seen tremendous growth since its launch in 2018. The company raised $680 million in Series B funding led by Softbank and has partnered with over 300 sports teams and organizations, including LaLiga, the Bundesliga, and Serie A. And it’s rumored to have landed a deal with the Premier League. Sorare has, until recently, focused mainly on football partnerships but has expanded its partnerships to include the NBA and MLB.
“This has already been an incredibly exciting year for our community, as we launch two new sports – baseball and basketball – for the first time,” said Nicolas Julia, CEO and co-founder of Sorare. “This partnership marks another major milestone for us and we look forward to working with Lionel as we continue to grow our community and evolve the experience we deliver to users as part of our ambition to make Sorare into the next global sports entertainment giant.”
Sorare’s partnership with Messi is one that follows the current trend of having sports stars and celebrities as the faces of crypto and NFT marketing campaigns. Messi secured an earlier partnership with Socios, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo signed an NFT partnership with Binance, while NFL star Tom Brady secured a deal with FTX. Sorare itself already has deals with Kylian Mbappé and Serena Williams.
As regulators globally grapple with regulating NFTs and cryptocurrencies to protect investors, celebrity endorsements of crypto and related goods and services are not always welcomed. For instance, countries such as Singapore are currently deliberating on banning celebrity endorsements. In the US celebrity Kim Kardashian was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to disclose the details of her cryptocurrency endorsements sufficiently.
Thus, celebrity endorsements for web3-related products and services are not without risk to the celebrity, as well as the brands they are affiliated with. Yesterday’s implosion of the international arm of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX demonstrates a different kind of risk. Tom Brady is thought to have been paid for his endorsement via an equity stake in the exchange. If the shares were in FTX.US rather than FTX.com, then they may still have some value, but significantly less than last week.