Rob Gronkowski (Gronk), tight end for National Football League (NFL) champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers, launched a nonfungible token (NFT) card collection on digital marketplace OpenSea. The blockchain collectibles were unveiled last Thursday and generated over $1.6 million in revenue. All of the NFTs, representing an authenticated digital ownership right in each of the 349 available digital cards, are sold out.
The collection includes four different cards, each associated with one of Gronkowski’s appearances in a winning Super Bowl team, including his latest appearance in February with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he scored two touchdowns. There are 87 copies of the cards for each of the four appearances. Every card has art representing the appearance and is digitally signed by Gronkowski. Additionally, the player launched a single edition NFT representing all four winning appearances at the final.
The single edition card’s auction continued until Sunday night and sold for $416,000. Winning the auction grants the cardholder VIP access to a beach party promoted by Gronkowski and attendance at one of his NFL games. Of the other limited edition cards, the most expensive one sold for $80,000.
Gronkowski is the first NFL player to launch his own NFT collection. Considering its success, it is likely that more players will want to follow the trend. In fact, Patrick Mahomes, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, has an NFT scheduled to launch soon. Nevertheless, an $80,000 digital card is a very selective offering. If more players follow Gronkowski’s footsteps, it is hard to tell how they will be valued.
One question is the role of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), which is usually involved in the intellectual property rights for these sorts of deals. We’ve asked them how it works if an individual like Gronk sells an NFT. An update will be provided when we receive a response.
The NFL and NFLPA are likely to be interested in NFTs themselves. The NBA has seen huge success with Dapper Labs’s NBA Top Shot, which offers seasonal video ‘moment’ collectibles in its marketplace. The platform has made over $360 million in cumulative sales and resales. However, the NBA and NBA Players Association get a relatively small piece of that figure. Much of it goes to the individuals trading the collectibles. Hence, the NFL will likely start exploring the possibility of a partnership for collectibles.
One aspect to consider is whether the NFL and NFLPA as a league might take a similar approach to the Dapper Labs deal and partner with a platform where all teams sell NFTs together.
Given the existence of the NFLPA, it’s less like that they will follow the alternate route that many European soccer clubs are taking by letting teams individually partner with collectible platforms to foster a digital Football Fantasy environment. Platforms like Sorare and Socios.com have made advances in Europe.
However, there’s a risk that players may rapidly follow Gronkowski’s footsteps and sell NFTs on digital marketplaces like OpenSea, which could limit the League’s potential to pursue long-term partnerships with blockchain sports collectibles platforms.