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Baseball NFTs: We Deserve Better ⚾
This is prime time for the MLB. So why aren't their digital collectibles making headlines?
Spring is a wonderful time in sports.
March Madness. Formula 1. Golf. NBA/NHL Playoffs. NFL Draft.
And of course, Opening Day of MLB.
Plus this year we’ve got the World Baseball Classic to kick of baseball season. What a treat!
My MLB fandom has wavered over the years, generally aligning with the Blue Jays success. But I’ve been brought back it, like I have other sports, through web3.
And so far, I’ve been disappointed by the experience.
You’d think baseball NFTs would be easy, given that its the second most popular Fantasy Sport and also the most classic of collectibles (cards, bobbleheads, and who remember pennants??)
And god forbid we look to the infamous Topps collection (remember Wooden Coins?), which has only seen 70 buyers this month!
There’s no easy way to say it: Baseball NFTs should be thriving!
This is the start of peak interest in the sport.
Below is a Google Trends chart for “MLB” over the last five years. Each peak represents a season, save for 2020 when the season began late on July 23rd.
So what’s going on here exactly?
Let’s dive in.
The Problem at the MLB
I would go as far as to say that baseball is the only sport that needs NFTs.
For other sports, the NFT part is fun yes, but football and basketball don’t necessarily need non-fungibles quite like MLB does.
It clearly needs something.
The sport is dying, and this season the league has implemented radical changes to combat how slow and boring the game has become, including an 8-second timer for the batter to be in the box and looking at the pitcher.
Both these charts are from this issue of Joe Pompliano’s Huddle Up, which also documents the fact that the average age of an MLB fan is now 57 years old, by far the oldest in American sports.
At least MLB is indirectly admitting to their problem: they need younger fans.
And what better way to do that than to go all-in on an emerging digital medium that meets new fans where they are (online).
MLB’s Opportunity in web3
There is no better match. Here’s why.
Quick, guess which sport holds the HIGHEST EVER physical card sale? Yes, its Baseball, with a $12.6M Mickey Mantle card being sold last August.
As noted above, baseball is quite dominant as the 2nd most played Fantasy Sport. It’s clearly a game of choice for American degens!
Plus, Fantasy Sports are projected to become a $78.5B industry by 2030, something that Sorare and Draft Kings’ Reignmakers clearly want a piece of.
Every time the WBC rolls around, I’m stunned at how global baseball actually is. And this is nothing new to MLB: just last year, they began awarding teams the rights to market internationally.
So this is not a limited-to-the-USA affair. Over time, MLB wants to grow beyond the borders, and digital collectibles should be a key part of that.
Don’t shoot me - these are the rankings from the WBSC. If you want the betting odds, they are here.
Back to web3 - the opportunity is there.
Next lets look at how both major platforms, Sorare and Candy, should work but haven’t lived up to expectations just yet.
🏆Sorare x MLB : The Easiest Use Case
Sorare launched MLB product mid-July last season, and it is by far its least favourite child.
There was zero promotional material for the launch, and an announcement for Season 2 has been indefinitely postponed.
And that despite the fact that their founder, Nicholas Julia, recently told Decrypt that MLB is crucial to their growth in North America.
Why it should work
Fantasy is a homerun: Sorare is literally a full on Fantasy platform - it counts 80k+ free weekly entries on the NBA side alone.
Sorare has support from their other IP partners: When the NBA had a game in Paris, the Association sent an email out to their ENTIRE MAILING LIST endorsing Sorare.
The product works really well: Sorare is so incredibly easy (and FREE) to play. The cards are fun, and they have introduced a “sticker book” style collection page for each team. Best in the business.
Baseball fans love crunching data: And Sorare has so many speculative elements (different stats, potential market cap, etc.) that it would be perfect for both average and hardcore fantasy players.
Why it hasn’t worked
No financial rewards: Draft Kings paid out $22M to their NFL Fantasy NFT product this season (Reignmakers). Yet MLB on Sorare still only rewards winner with new cards.
No alignment with Baseball schedule: Zero promotion for the WBC, unlike their massive World Cup promo on the Soccer product. Plus, the Sorare MLB account has tweeted JUST FOUR TIMES in the last month.
No advertising: Almost no one knows about this, and there’s been zero support from the league nor have there been any large athlete partnerships (unlike for Soccer and NBA).
Whats coming up
The only indication that this product still exists came from Sorare’s head of engineering last month.
That tweet is from February 7th, which is a full 93 days after the World Series ended, and just 50 days before opening day. Yikes!
🍬Candy Digital : Abandoned in childhood
Candy launched their NFT product for MLB right at the end of the 2021 season, and full caveat: we helped promote it!
The product made tons of sense: it’s like baseball cards, but they are highlights.
The Series 1 packs were hot: shortly after their sellout for $50 a pack, they were going for $1,400 on the secondary marketplace!
As Season 2 began, Candy rolled out grand plans for the product: they would be minting a “Play of the Day” (innovative fan service only possible in NFTs!), on top of bi-weekly supply.
Unfortunately, this coincided with a crash in the NFT market (April-May 2022), and the platform fell from 11k monthly buyers in April 2022 to just 3k in September.
Why it should work
Baseball Cards: This is literally the most obvious use case for NFTs.
Historical Cards: To further entice the traditional crowd, Candy has even delivered historical drops, including Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr and Jackie Robinson.
Solid Partnerships Teams: The team at Candy has been able to land Nascar and the WWE. They’ve also signed many NIL athletes. They are good at this and can clearly gain the trust of the major IPs.
Why it hasn’t worked
Team Focus: The executive team appear to be largely a group of art collectors from the NYC area, and the focus is clearly off as proven by this week’s Getty images drop.
Marketing Misses: The need to meet fans where they are is vital, and for baseball memorabilia there is no shortage of trade shows for cardboard. And yet, Candy has only attended a handful of these shows - a circuit they should be dominating.
Oversupply: As the 2022 season dawned, new supply flooded the market. Although it was halted mid-May, the platform now carries a similar narrative to Top Shot: oversupply.
Abandoned by the founders: The following is an ACTUAL statement from the news release following Candy’s inception.
Candy Digital is being launched by three titans of their respective industries who bring unique expertise and skill sets for scaling businesses within the digitally native world: Michael Rubin, Executive Chairman, Fanatics; Mike Novogratz, founder and CEO, Galaxy Digital; and Gary Vaynerchuk, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor.
Do you know how many times Gary Vee has even tweeted about the platform? 3. He’s tweeted about only 3x times despite his name being splashed around in the press release.
Whats coming up
The team has promised to release plans for Series 3 on March 15th.
💀 Projects That Didn’t Make It
Candy and Sorare weren’t the first attempts at Baseball NFTs; in fact, MLB was the first ever league to license NFTs!
Dating back to 2018, MLB Champions were one of the first ever NFT projects and the first ever official sports NFT. The company that ran the project, Lucid Sight, has since moved on, but we’ll featuring them and the project in an upcoming podcast.
And if you were here in early 2021, you’ll remember the infamous Topps Wooden Coin on WAX (yes, that’s a blockchain).
Although this project is still technically alive, I would argue that its existence against Candy’s only muddles the experience and divides an already minuscule user base.
So What Now?
Baseball fandom is so broad, and so rich - heck it even has several traditional songs associated with it. It has a romanticism that is so heavily tied to American culture that no other sport comes close to its nostalgic vibes.
And yet, in web3, its been a series of misses on MLB’s part.
The fact that there is literally not a single promotion going on during the WBC, which only occurs every four years, is case in point there.
We deserve better.
**This is not financial advice. Nothing in this newsletter, podcast, or publication should be considered financial or trading advice of any kind. Please do your own thorough research and make your own trading decisions. This is not advice.”
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