Professional Fighters League Jumps Into NFT Fray

By Dominic Massimino

The Professional Fighters League (PFL), has announced a partnership with white-label NFT platform creator Mercury to create a branded NFT market for the MMA league.

The PFL, which is the UFC’s primary MMA competitor, is expected to have NFTs available for sale before the opening day of its regular season, April 20. Fans will be able to buy, sell and trade PFL-inspired digital collectibles on the platform using credit cards or cryptocurrency— and will also be able to purchase NFTs of fighters created by Mercury itself. 

“The marketplace will serve as an integral part of the PFL community and accentuates our strategy to leverage blockchain technology to build deeper engagement with our global fanbase,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a statement.

The league, targeting an estimated global MMA audience of 550 million fans, has been expanding its sponsorship reach in recent years, signing deals with Sugar23, Socios and DraftKings, among others. Mercury has also made substantial inroads in college athletics, including recent deals with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program as well as University of Kansas athletics. 

Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott Signs On as Playermaker Brand Ambassador

By Dominic Massimino

Teenage Liverpool winger Harvey Elliott has joined soccer wearable company Playermaker as a brand ambassador. Playermaker’s product uses two small sensors fitted within a silicon strap around a player’s shoes to track various data metrics including acceleration, kick velocity, distance traveled, top speed and left/right balance. 

Playermaker has scored partnerships across countless international soccer leagues, including recent deals with Poland’s Legia Warsaw and Scotland’s Rangers F.C. According to Elliot, his experience with the brand began in his Academy days and continues to this day.

“As a young player, you always want to improve and get better, and Playermaker made that tangible for me – it shows you your progress over time, laid out in the app, and it’s really motivating,” Elliot, 18, said in a statement. 

One of Liverpool’s brightest young stars, Elliott faced criticism following Liverpool’s penalty shootout win over Chelsea Sunday after celebrating with a red flare — pyrotechnics are banned in English football stadiums.

NYCFC Steers Electric Car Push, Partners With EV Charging Station Developer FLO

By Andrew Cohen

Electric vehicle charging station company FLO has partnered with New York City FC. The deal with the MLS club marks the first major U.S. sports partnership for FLO, which is based in Quebec.

FLO began installing public EV charging stations in New York City last year. The company has plans to add 100 more curbside chargers across the city’s five boroughs in partnership with Con Edison and the NYC Department of Transportation.

“It is our intent to see how we can work with the different stakeholders involved to increase the availability of EV charging infrastructure, both at and near the stadiums where NYCFC plays home games. We feel that there are opportunities to offer EV charging, both at the public level on the curb and within private parking lots,” Chris Thorson, FLO’s VP and CMO, said in a statement to SportTechie.

NYCFC, which won last year’s MLS Cup, is splitting its home matches this season between Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Citi Field in Queens and Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. In December, NYC mayor Eric Adams told the New York Post that he’d engage in discussions to build a soccer-specific stadium for NYCFC. 

Electric car chargers have yet to become an on-site accommodation at sports venues. However, one of the industry’s biggest stars Tom Brady has appeared in ads that promote Tesla, the world’s biggest EV manufacturer, through his partnership with Hertz. 

Samba TV Partners With Disney, iSpot Acquires Tunity as Networks Prioritize Sports Streaming Measurement

By Andrew Cohen

A pair of streaming audience analysis companies, Samba TV and iSpot, made significant moves this week. Samba TV has partnered with Disney to measure audiences across its platforms, including ESPN and ESPN+, while iSpot acquired Tunity.

Both Samba TV and iSpot serve as digital-focused alternatives to traditional Nielsen ratings, as networks watch their audiences shift from linear to streaming platforms.

Samba’s propriety software is embedded directly into smart TVs to track viewership data, with it currently installed in 46 million devices across 24 partnered smart TV manufacturers, according to Axios. Disney’s EVP of sales Lisa Valentino told Axios that roughly 40% of Disney’s TV advertising inventory is now streaming, with most of that coming via Hulu and ESPN+.

iSpot’s software, meanwhile, can detect when a viewer leaves a screen while an ad is playing and will now have out-of-home measurement app Tunity join its arsenal. Tunity’s mobile app lets users scan a TV to livestream real-time audio, which is especially useful when watching sports in bars and restaurants that normally have muted TVs. The app lets networks track listeners to get a better estimation of how many people gather in a public space to watch a sporting event. 

NBC has an existing multi-year deal with iSpot, which the network used earlier this year to measure audiences and video ad exposure during Super Bowl LVI and the Beijing Olympics. NBC used Tunity during the Tokyo Olympics 

Sponsorship Valuation Company Trajektory Launches With NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS Team Partners

By Dominic Massimino

Sports sponsorship analytics platform Trajektory announced its launch on Wednesday. The company’s initial team partners include the Chicago Bears, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Union. 

 Trajektory’s Partner Intelligence software analyzes engagement data from social media, broadcast, radio, in-game digital signage, email, apps and web activations to measure sponsorship value. The platform produces reports with data visualization that rank a team’s top performing sponsorship campaigns.  

 Franchises from six professional leagues currently work with Trajektory. The company is based in Chicago and was founded by Alex Kerr, a former director of business intelligence at Monumental Sports & Entertainment. 

Live Sports Prediction Startup nVenue Raises $3.5 Million

By Joe Lemire

In-game predictive analytics provider nVenue has closed a $3.5 million seed round co-led by KB Partners and Corazon Capital. nVenue is a graduate of Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator’s inaugural cohort in 2021. 

nVenue uses machine learning algorithms that draw on historical statistics and live game data to generate probabilities for the next on-field action. Its NextPlay API data feed is available for sportsbooks and broadcasters to create micro-betting markets and data-driven content. nVenue currently provides these analytics for MLB and NFL action, but will use the investment to expand to new sports. 

Following its time in Comcast’s accelerator, which pairs startups with industry partners, nVenue collaborated with NBC Sports to debut its technology during a live broadcast of a White Sox-Athletics game on Oakland’s regional sports network. Founded in 2018, nVenue is led by CEO Kelly Pracht, a former Hewlett Packard Enterprises executive. 

KB Partners is an early-stage fund specializing in the sports tech industry. One of the managing directors at Corazon Capital is Sam Yagan, the former CEO of ShopRunner and OkCupid who spoke at Horizon Summit in 2020, the conference co-produced by SportTechie and the San Francisco 49ers. 

AWS Launches New Advanced Stats for NHL, Bundesliga

By Joe Lemire

Amazon Web Services has helped develop new advanced metrics with two of its league partners this week with the NHL’s launch of its new Face-Off Probability stat, as well as Bundesliga’s new insights into a team’s Set Piece Threat and players’ Skill in four areas. 

The NHL face-off metric is calculated live prior to each draw. It relies on data from the league’s puck and player tracking system, NHL Edge, as well as the past decade of historical face-off data. The analysis depends on dozens of inputs, including ice location, player matchups, game situation and tracking data. 

In previously released batches of Bundesliga Match Facts, AWS helped calculate such metrics as shot efficiency, passing profile and expected goals. Set Piece Threat determines a team’s chance of scoring on a corner or free kick, compared to the league average, and also evaluates the quality of the chance. The four new Skill categories are Finisher, Sprinter, Initiator and Ball Winner. 

In recent years, AWS has landed a series of partnerships with major sports leagues: the NFL, Bundesliga, NHL, PGA Tour, NASCAR and Formula 1. It previously was MLB’s Statcast partner before the league switched to Google Cloud. The NBA uses Microsoft Azure. 

Utah Jazz Sign NFT Deal With CoinZoom, Will Add QR Codes to Arena Seats

By Andrew Cohen

The Utah Jazz will release NFTs in partnership with CoinZoom, a Salt Lake City-based cryptocurrency trading app. QR codes are being placed on each seat at Vivint Arena for fans to scan with their phones to access the latest Jazz NFTs.

Jazz tokens will be available exclusively through the NFT Marketplace within CoinZoom’s app. Fans can buy NFTs on CoinZoom through payment options that include credit cards, wire transfers, ACH, direct deposits and more than 40 cryptocurrencies. Users store their NFTs in their digital wallet in CoinZoom’s app.

CoinZoom will also sponsor crypto giveaways and trivia contests for the Jazz, as well as receive branding in the team’s arena, app, radio broadcasts, social channels and merchandise. The Jazz plan to use CoinZoom, which is available to customers in 194 countries, to offer digital collectibles to fans around the world. 

Interactive at-home climbing machine CLMBR has announced a partnership with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which consists of eight HBCU member schools. Each MEAC school will receive a CLMBR connected machine to help their D-1 athletes train.

CLMBR’s machine stands over seven feet tall and has a touch screen to stream workouts. Investors in CLMBR include NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, tennis star Novak Djokovic and Jay-Z.  The company’s donations will allow MEAC schools to redirect athletics department funds from fitness equipment to other program needs. 

MEAC men’s basketball teams from Howard University and Morgan State University recently played in an HBCU Classic game during NBA All-Star Weekend. The conference joins UFC as leagues to have deals with CLMBR as a deal announced in December saw CLMBR machines added to the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.

Underdog Fantasy, Backed by Kevin Durant and Mark Cuban, to Sponsor Football Outsiders Content

By Dominic Massimino

Premium content on football analytics site Football Outsiders will be sponsored by fantasy sports app Underdog Fantasy. Underdog, which raised $10 million in a 2021 fundraising round that included Mark Cuban, Kevin Durant and Jared Goff, will be Football Outsiders’ first-ever fantasy presenting sponsor. 

Underdog Fantasy’s sponsorship of Football Outsiders’ premium content will include offseason analysis of NFL prospects, weekly editorials and podcasts. Underdog will also sponsor the FO 40 and Fantasy 40, two boards of pre-draft prospects that will be constantly updated based on their fit with prospective teams and projected fantasy impact. 

Underdog Fantasy’s users will also gain access to Football Outsiders’ fantasy analysis content to inform decisions on Undergod’s pick ‘em and fantasy games.

NBA Star DeMar DeRozan, NFL’s Emmanuel Sanders Invest in Sneaker Rental Company KYX World

By Andrew Cohen

Sports technology-focused venture capital firm SeventySix Capital has led a $3 million seed funding round raised by sneaker rental company KYX World. Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders also invested in round.

KYX World now values itself at $16 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company buys sneakers from other secondary markets and employs authenticators and cleaners to ensure the shoes are delivered in “near new” condition. Brands such as Nike, New Balance and Yeezys are available on KYX.

Subscriptions to KYX range from $59 to $299 per month, with members able to rent or buy a limited number of sneakers per month based on their subscription tier. The company will aim to serve as an alternative to existing sneaker resellers such as StockX, which was founded by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

KYX currently takes orders through its website and plans to use its new funding to launch a mobile app. SeventySix Capital has previously invested in companies such as augmented reality developer Quintar, sports camera company C360 and basketball shooting analytics company ShotTracker