Major League Soccer (MLS) recently announced that they will be the first professional sports organization to sign a digital athlete. While VTubers and digital artists have been around for well over a decade, is this signing any different? And what implications, if any, does it have for the future of entertainment?
From Chimpion to Champion
In a press release, MLS, in collaboration with Get Engaged, announced that Bored Ape #6045 , affectionately known as Striker, will be signed to the MLS on a professional contract!
Striker will be filling the position of, yup, you guessed it, striker. His debut is on August 10th where he’ll play his first game on a virtual pitch. Here are his “Fast Facts:”
- Position - Striker
- Height - 6’5“
- Weight - 250 lbs
- Birthplace - The Blockchain
- Hometown - The Otherside
Speaking about being the first digital athlete signed to a professional contract, Striker had this to say:
I’m extremely excited to join Major League Soccer, the fastest growing sports league in North America. In a League with players from more than 82 countries, it is an honor to be the first digital athlete. I can’t wait to get on the virtual pitch!
NFTs and the World of Sports
While the signing of an NFT to an “official” roster spot in a professional sport is exciting, at its core, it’s a creative marketing initiative. Only time will tell how popular Striker will be in the MLS with much of this depending on the level of creativity that the League will apply to his involvement going forward.
The concept of using digital characters in entertainment isn’t new, not by a long shot. Gorillaz , anyone?
What the inclusion of Striker in MLS shows, however, is how easy it is for NFTs to penetrate mainstream markets compared to cryptocurrency. The fact that we are dealing with art at the end of the day makes the transition easier and also more readily lends itself to the entertainment industry (as well as a variety of other sectors for that matter).
If the goal is to provide audiences and fans with innovative new experiences and treat these digital activations with a high level of care, it would be a net positive for NFTs and digital collectibles as a whole.