A Sorare digital trading card of Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland sold for £511,000 ($684,000) in an auction on Sunday night.
The NFT (non-fungible token) is a one-of-one super rare item that provides a maximum points boost in the fantasy football company’s paid contests, meaning it will be used in cash games in addition to serving as a collectible.
Sorare is a fast-growing business currently valued at more than £3 billion - and it has become one of the kingpins of the growing NFT landscape in football.
What does the Haaland card look like?
The Haaland NFT is meant to replicate real-life trading cards, showing key player details such as number, age, position and nationality.
There is also the level of rarity listed in the top-left corner, which in this case is unique. The cards are colour-coded based on rarity, too.
How is Sorare different from other NFT projects?
Unlike other initiatives that have gained mainstream popularity of late, such as John Terry’s controversial apes, Sorare is focussed on giving its NFTs useability beyond just being a collectible. Cards can be entered in fantasy contests based on real-life player performance, and rarer items provide higher multipliers, thus theoretically helping users earn money back on their investments.
That utility has helped insulate Sorare from broader cryptocurrency trends, and CEO Nikolas Julia told GOAL that users often don’t think about the fact they’re even using crypto.
While cryptocurrency in general has tanked in recent months, Sorare’s marketplace has enjoyed marginal gains.
Sorare’s rapid growth
As a company, Sorare has ridden the upward wave of NFTs since late-2020, with Sunday’s massive sale of the Haaland item another example of its popularity and the trust users have in it being a sustainable model.
Last year, Julia told GOAL that developing a mobile app and improving user interface for beginner players were his top priorities. He now says he's satisfied with improvements in the latter category and added an app would be released this fiscal quarter. Right now, it’s in beta testing.
Additionally, Sorare plans to expand beyond football to help gain a bigger footprint in the United States, with two new sports set to be launched in 2022. The company has been hiring aggressively in the U.S. market in recent months to prepare for that unveiling, and tennis icon Serena Williams has come on board as an advisor.
Still, football will likely remain at the heart and soul of Sorare for some time. It is, after all, the basis from which it went from a nobody to a multi-billion pound firm.
It’s a growth arc that has attracted football’s biggest leagues to participate, and those partnerships have in turn added credibility to the project.
Bundesliga international CEO Robert Klein told GOAL: “The Bundesliga has long-held its position as a leader in sports innovation; we are constantly looking ahead, focused on providing our global fanbase with new experiences and ways to engage with their favourite clubs and players.
“A key factor in choosing Sorare was their fantasy game, which has become popular around the world. The fact that the game places importance on curating a squad which not only includes securing established global stars, but also scouting exciting new talents, makes it a perfect fit for the Bundesliga. Sorare’s drive for innovation matches our own, and we are excited to introduce even more elements to the partnership in the near future.”
Julia, meanwhile, said he was grateful for the "win-win" partnership that has enabled licensed digital products to skyrocket in value on his platform.