The US’ NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have announced a partnership with blockchain-based fantasy sports platform Sorare.
As the Official NFT Fantasy Partner of the NBA under the terms of the multi-year partnership, Sorare will develop a free-to-play digital collectible-based fantasy basketball game for the league.
The Sorare: NBA product will be launched this winter ahead of the 2022/23 NBA season, enabling fans of the league to create fantasy teams using digital assets based on the tournament’s teams and athletes.
As with conventional fantasy sports platforms, players will win points based on the real-life performance of the players in their squads, but with the added dynamic of a blockchain-based system.
“Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world and we are excited to bring fans even closer to their favourite teams and players through Sorare: NBA,” said Nicolas Julia, Sorare CEO and Co-Founder.
“The NBA and the players have been at the forefront of digital experiences and collectibles and our game gives basketball fans the ultimate sports entertainment experience where they can play like a general manager, own their own game, and foster real-world connections.”
One of several NFT-based fantasy sports and fan engagement platforms to have gained increased prominence over the past year as public interest in blockchain and crypto technology rises, Sorare has signed a wide range of major sports organisations as partners.
The NBA is the first organisation to sign a deal with the firm since July, when the platform partnered with Italy’s top-flight Serie A – a development discussed by the league’s Commercial and Marketing Director, Michele Ciccarese, in a Q&A with Insider Sport.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver remarked: “Our partnership with Sorare will give NBA fans an entirely new way to engage with our teams and players.
“With Sorare’s emerging NFT fantasy platform, we see significant opportunities to broaden our community of fans and grow NBA basketball around the world.”
To support development of its fantasy product, Sorare has secured the rights to official NBA league and team logos under the terms of the partnership.
For the NBA, the agreement serves for the league to further bolster its fan engagement capabilities, by providing its followers with a ‘new opportunity to interact with’ the tournament.
Tamika Tremaglio, Executive Director of the NBPA, added: “Sorare has built an innovative gaming experience that creates a whole new way for fans from all over the world to interact with and learn more about our players.
“We are very excited about this partnership and the effect Sorare will have on the growth of our game and players globally.”
As mentioned above, Sorare has enjoyed a strong uptake in commercial success and sporting interest over the past year, as public interest in blockchain and crypto increases and sports organisations seek new revenue streams and means to engage with their followers.
The rise in appeal and activity in blockchain-based fan token and fantasy sports platforms has not gone unnoticed by regulators, however, or without some degree of criticism.
Sorare itself has publicly defended its record of being a non-gambling platform, after the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) launched an evaluation of the firm earlier this year to determine if its product could be classified as such.
Dan Sormaz, the firm’s Head of Sales, has asserted that ‘we firmly believe that Sorare isn’t a gambling platform’, although acknowledging that due to the ‘new and unique nature’ of such products, it is understandable that regulators ‘may be interested in how it fits into existing paradigms’.
“Much like the traditional trading card world I grew up with, we do have collectibles that fans can buy, trade and sell,” Sormaz explained.
“However, there’s no requirement to pay anything to play the fantasy game and if users do choose to play, they are never at risk of losing their cards regardless of how well they do.
“It’s very important that Sorare is a compelling product for players of all levels. This includes those who just want to play for fun and those who want to own a piece for themselves.”
In a statement in June, Gambling Commission Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes identified some areas of concern for the regulator with regards to new and emerging products – including NFTs and other blockchain/crypto products.
In particular, Rhodes cited the ‘gamification’ of offerings which are not covered by the scope of the nearly two decades-old 2005 Gambling Act – due to be overhauled by the later this month in a White Paper.