In the framework of the recently published EUBOF report on NFT’s, the Observatory has interviewed Nicolas Julia, Sorare CEO who explained how Sorare combines online football collectibles with NFTs, what the future holds for NFTs and Sorare and how Europe can benefit from the innovations related to NFTs.
EU OBSERVATORY: Introduce us to Sorare and explain how it combines online football collectibles with NFTs.
Nicolas Julia: Sorare is a global fantasy sports game based on collectible cards powered by blockchain. Our unique, innovative combination of NFT technology with sports cards and fantasy gaming has allowed Sorare to become the leading next-gen offering within football, bridging digital and real-life sporting moments for fans, footballers and clubs across the globe.
Sorare was created by football fans for football fans. Both myself and my co-founder Adrien are avid football fans, and wanted to connect our passion with our other passion - NFTs. Our mission is to build “the game within the game” and to give fans a platform to celebrate, share and own their passion for sports.
Founded in 2018, Sorare is already the leading player in the fast-growing digital sports collectibles space, with over 600,000 registered users from 170 countries and licensed players from over 200 clubs. Over $150 million of cards have been traded on the platform in 2021, and we expect that number will be more than $200m by year-end. We recently closed a $680m Series B funding round and have partnered with both LaLiga and the Bundesliga’s top 2 divisions - with many more to follow.
EU OBSERVATORY: How did football clubs and other traditional stakeholders reach the use of a novel technology (NFTs/Blockchain)?
Nicolas Julia: Clubs are always looking for new, authentic ways to connect with their fans, and are always experimenting with the latest technological innovations. Blockchain is therefore a natural fit for sports, as it provides a sense of unique digital ownership and value for fans online, allowing them to collect the players they admire most and savour their favourite moments. It’s no surprise that clubs have been quick to partner with Sorare and help us revolutionise what it means to be a sports fan in the digital age.
EU OBSERVATORY: What are some of the unique features of Sorare’s digital cards that stem from their NFT nature, and that cannot be easily replicated by other “conventional” collectibles (Panini Cards, Magic The Gathering etc.)?
Nicolas Julia: Our digital trading cards offer two major advantages to the collectibles world that have not been possible before: utility and proven scarcity.
You can use Sorare cards collectibles across platforms and across games - including titles from established players like Ubisoft to smaller independent developers - and you can also identify the scarcity and rareness of your card in real time through the Sorare platform.
Cards come in different scarcities: Each football player has 1000 Limited cards, 100 Rare cards, 10 Super Rare cards, and a single Unique card. Managers compete against each other to collect these scarce cards on the Sorare Marketplace.
Moreover, you can buy and sell Sorare cards across any marketplace, such as OpenSea or Rarible, instantaneously to anyone in the world - something far less easy with physical trading cards.
EU OBSERVATORY: What new possibilities do NFT-based collectibles bring to the table?
Nicolas Julia: When it comes to sports, NFT-based collectibles are opening up a wave of new possibilities for fans and clubs alike. At Sorare, we have over 600,000 registered users on the platform, and for them, collecting NFT trading cards helps build a sense of digital identity and community - connecting them to the clubs they love.
For certain fans, this is priceless, and they value the opportunity to collect cards of their idols and show off their support. Our platform - and by extension NFTs - also allows fans to access real-life experiences - like matchday tickets and tours of their favourite stadiums - for collecting cards and participating and winning leagues. In a sense, NFTs are the crux of a new form of sports fandom.
EU OBSERVATORY: What is your take on the impact of NFTs for the future of: a) video game industry b) collectables industry?
Nicolas Julia: NFTs are already radically shaking up the gaming industry, birthing a new genre of game in which players can, for the first time, truly ‘own’ the digital assets they collect and trade, and where they can earn real-world rewards for investing their time and skill. We only expect NFTs to continue to revolutionise the industry and reach new audiences through gaming.
In terms of collectibles, NFTs are better than physical collectibles because you can do more with them: they’re authenticated, liquid and persistent. Unlike real world collectables, they prove ownership, can be freely traded at any moment, and are at less risk of being lost or damaged. As a result, we predict that NFTs will quickly become the world’s most popular form of digital collectible - especially when it comes to all things sports.
EU OBSERVATORY: Sorare has recently raised a $680-million funding round. What does the future hold for Sorare? What are the main challenges and opportunities that lie ahead?
Nicolas Julia: Our goal is to make Sorare the next global sports entertainment giant. Sorare is already the leading NFT-based fantasy football platform, and we see huge potential to replicate our proven model across other sports - and that’s why we’re in conversation with some really interesting new potential sports partners.
Following our Series B funding round, we’re also continuing to hire rapidly - aiming to hire over 150 people in the next 12 months - and we plan to expand into the US. We’re also exploring launching new initiatives to support sports activities for young people and funding other startups in the Sorare and blockchain gaming ecosystem.
EU OBSERVATORY: Would you argue that Europe is well positioned to reap the benefits of NFTs and related innovations and why?
Nicolas Julia: Europe is the perfect market to reap the benefits of innovations related to NFTs. It is home to some world-class talent and a booming tech ecosystem that has already produced some great blockchain-related startups. We’re now seeing things accelerate in the European market because the ecosystem has reached a higher level of maturity, with more repeat entrepreneurs and bigger exits from European companies. This is breeding a new generation of entrepreneurs with more knowledge and experience that are willing to not only dominate their local market and the European market, but the global market as well.