Veering off course, Porsche jumps into NFT craze with crypto-inspired trading card business

No longer content to just build luxury sports cars like the 911, Porsche believes it needs one wheel in the digital economy as well to remain innovative. The answer: It’s embracing the latest investor craze, NFTs.

Porsche’s digital subsidiary spun off a new minority-owned company called Fanzone that will issue non-fungible tokens to collect and trade. 

Instead of depicting the company’s own iconic cars past or present, however, Porsche chose athletes in its bid to expand its footprint into online gaming and digital entertainment.

“The demand for classic trading cards and albums has been unbroken for decades,” said Christian Knörle, head of company building at Porsche Digital, in a statement on Monday. “With Fanzone, we are now digitizing this promising market.” 

NFTs are among the hottest asset classes of the year as investors seek out any investment that deliver huge returns, above and beyond a booming stock market.

Power to the Beeple

Non-fungible tokens confer on their users authentic ownership over a digital property, and this scarcity, by design, has become a major selling point. In March, one artist known as Beeple even auctioned off a collage for $69 million to a cryptocurrency investor.

Even before the recent hype, the burgeoning space of NFTs triggered the interest of Claudio Weck, a Porsche Digital developer specializing in distributed ledger technology. In November of last year, he left the company to begin working on Fanzone with two other cofounders.  

As the startup’s launch partner, it won over Germany’s Football Association, whose 2014 World Cup–winning national team squares off against France in the opening round of the European Championship on Tuesday.

Initially, Fanzone cards will depict the men’s squad, a favorite in the European soccer tournament, as well as the under-21 team, which won its own European youth tournament earlier this month, and the women’s team that nabbed two world titles. 

The trading card NFTs are secured via the lifestyle-oriented blockchain Lukso, developed by the Berlin coder that proposed Ethereum’s ERC-20 digital token standard in November 2015. 

Porsche said the platform provides new marketing channels for sports institutions, which themselves are keen to exploit this new technology.

“We are convinced that innovative, digital interaction platforms between sports fans and their favorite teams offer huge growth potential,” said Dirk Weyel, chief executive of Fanzone. “That’s why we’re excited to be able to build such a platform sustainably with a strong partner like Forward31.” 

Founded last March and named after the year in which VW Beetle inventor Ferdinand Porsche first started his own engineering office, Forward31 is the Volkswagen Group brand’s very own startup incubator.

Porsche is a veritable cash cow for Volkswagen, earning one of the industry’s highest returns on sales and contributing nearly 40 percent of the group’s overall €10.6 billion underlying operating profits last year.

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