Draftkings is launching its first NFT series developed in-house because the company expects sports to become the mainstream driving force of blockchain applications.
The Boston-based sports betting company is launching the NFT series in time for the NCAA’s college basketball tournament, which tips off Tuesday and runs through April 4.
“Few times on the sports calendar can match the drama and spectacle of March’s college basketball tournament, which is why we chose this month-long event to initiate this new digital collectibles program,” DraftKings Co-founder Matt Kalish said.
The 2022 College Hoops Collection is the first within a planned Primetime NFT Series that will drop around other major sporting events. Beth Beiriger, DraftKings’ senior vice president of marketplace operations, told us that the company could launch future NFT collections alongside the NBA Playoffs and the Super Bowl.
The launch comes after DraftKings unveiled last August its digital collectibles marketplace, which offers curated NFT drops and supports secondary-market transactions. It announced at the time that it would be the exclusive distributor of sports-related NFT content from NFT platform Autograph.
Beiriger said that the new NFT series marks the first time the company is connecting digital collectibles to its legacy products. The 2022 College Hoops Collection NFT holders will be eligible to receive DraftKings site credit to place bets and enter pools, brackets and contests across its sportsbook and daily fantasy offerings.
Collectors holding all eight NFTs within the collection will receive a ninth NFT after the NCAA championship game that will give them early access to the next Primetime NFT Series drop.
“We see sports as a mainstream driver for blockchain adoption, and digital collectibles are an important part of that early onboarding process,” Beiriger told us.
“Between cashless concessions within stadiums, online ticketing and much more today, consumers have already been conditioned for the ongoing digitization of sports as NFTs further advance this trend,” she added.
The company is also paying close attention to the blockchain gaming space as play-to-earn models gain momentum, Beiriger said.
The company expects to debut an NFT-based fantasy game ahead of the next NFL season. An agreement with the NFL Players Association grants DraftKings licensing rights for the league’s active players.
DraftKings also announced last week that it was partnering with infrastructure platform Zero Hash to stake digital assets it holds in its treasury to support the Polygon (MATIC) blockchain network. The news builds upon the company’s previously disclosed partnership with Polygon.
“As a validator, DraftKings will become an even more active participant in the Polygon ecosystem, playing a critical role in guaranteeing the integrity of the blockchain and securing the network,” Polygon Co-Founder Sandeep Nailwal said.
Drafting Web3 talent
Amid the crypto initiatives and plans, the company is seeking to onboard talent within the space, job postings indicate.
DraftKings is seeking a senior Web3 engineer for its NFT marketplace, for example, that will help the company “build and expand our blockchain infrastructure to ensure the scalability and availability of the entire platform,” according to its website.
The company is also looking for a fraud specialist to work on investigations related to cryptocurrency, blockchain and the NFT marketplace, as well as ensure compliance with anti-money laundering regulations.
Though the company has made moves to directly onboard blockchain, crypto and NFT experts, such as through its acquisition of Scarcity Labs last year, it is scouring all industries for people who can help DraftKings grow.
“The crypto space is still so nascent and rapidly growing that we do not want to miss out on premier talent by focusing solely on crypto natives,” Beiriger said.
“Just as we want to onboard customers through mainstream accessibility, we want to attract a diverse talent pool from a range of native professional backgrounds or transferable skill sets.”