Major League Rugby signs biggest partnership in league history

Dallas-based Major League Rugby has signed the biggest commercial deal in league history with NFT (non-fungible token) provider NuArca Labs. League commissioner George Killebrew, who spent nearly 30 years in the Dallas Mavericks front office, said the partnership will be one of many on the road to the 2031 Men’s Rugby World Cup. and a fully constructed league.

George Killebrew

“The United States have just won the 2031 Men’s Rugby World Cup and the 2033 Women’s Rugby World Cup,” Killebrew said. CEO. “So we’ve got this nine-year-old track to take this sport on board and make it a bigger name. [through] our partnerships. By the time the World Cup lands on our shores, we can be a 28-team league. (MLR currently has 13 teams.)

Killebrew believes sports franchises can find the future of sports fan engagement on a blockchain – a distributed digital ledger that stores data of all kinds – via NFTs. “Technology has obviously evolved over the years, and just like old trading cards had the stats on the back of a card of your favorite baseball, basketball or football player, NFTs are one of new ways to follow and connect with sport and athletes,” he said.

After prospecting seven different NFT companies, Killebrew and the MLR team landed on NuArca, a Boston-based blockchain and AI-based solutions company geared towards the fintech, energy and technology industries. consumer identity security. This partnership is NuArca’s first agreement with a North American professional sports league.

Starting with the league championship in late June, NuArca and MLR will launch activations of its NFTs, Killebrew said. Then in the 2023 season, the two will have a full rollout of an online digital trading card marketplace where fans can earn and purchase “player packs” and other digital and real-world experiences, including quests. that lead to signed jerseys or trips to meet players.

Minted on the Polygon Layer 2 blockchain, NuArca’s NFTs are safer and more environmentally friendly using a fraction of the energy compared to other standard technologies.

Todd Cooper

“This partnership is about MLR and its relationship with its fans,” said Todd Cooper, co-founder and CEO of NuArca. “NFTs in sports are a direct connection and direct transfer of value that allows the fan to own a small piece of the action and allows the brand to gain insight into fan behaviors and the things fans love. .”

Cooper said MLR’s NFTs will not aim to create investor greed. “For us, it’s less about speculative investments like paying $300,000 to have a LeBron James dunk NFT,” Cooper said. CEO. This will be more of Killebrew’s analogy to classic card collecting. “We want to recreate the intimacy of a baseball card, simply by using a digital marketing program,” Cooper said.

MLR says there are 16 million rugby fans in America. As a fledgling league frontman, Killebrew — who was mentored by Mark Cuban and still receives the sports guru’s “unpaid consultation” to this day — says MLR combined the Dallas Mavericks’ business plan with the Major League Soccer scaling plan.

“We compare ourselves a lot to MLS,” he says. “We are going to be six years old and they are 28, so there is a big difference. But when professional football came to America, a lot of people were [uneasy] on this subject. Football is obviously a global game, just like rugby. America is really the only country not yet established there. But by the time the World Cup rolls around, we can have a team in every major metropolitan area in America.

Since Killebrew took over as MLR commissioner in late 2019, the league has grown from nine teams to 13, with the Dallas Jackals being the newest addition. The number of viewers of league games has also increased, from 600,000 in 2019 to 2 million in 2021.

MLR’s latest TV deal with FOX Sports airs games primarily on FS2, but several times over the year FOX has upgraded games to air in front of 20 million viewers through the conglomerate’s FS1 channel. media. For the 2022 championship, the game will air on FOX, displaying the game in front of virtually every American household with a television.

“Things are heating up,” Killebrew says. “We really caught the attention of the sports world.”


Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger is the associate editor of CEOthe business title of Magazine D. Ben manages the Dallas 500

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