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Serena Williams joins Sorare’s board in effort to make Web3 more inclusive

January 20, 2022, 3:06 PM UTC

If sports are the great equalizer, then sports-focused NFTs have the potential to attract an underserved community to the Web3 space, argues Serena Williams, tennis star and venture capitalist, who announced Thursday she was joining the board of Sorare, a player-owned fantasy sport game leveraging NFTs. 

Sorare launched in 2018 and combines NFT collectibles with fantasy sports. Its main offering is a fantasy football game in which players buy, sell, trade, and manage a virtual team with digital player cards. The game uses blockchain technology, based on Ethereum. 

In her newly appointed role, Williams will provide guidance to the board on a range of topics, including developing Sorare’s relationship with athletes, as well as advising on its expansion strategy and its future initiatives to make Web3 more inclusive and diverse.

Sorare’s trading volume has grown from $7 million in 2020 to $325 million in 2021, and has over 1 million global users and 230 sports organization partnerships, according to the press release. This year, it aims to expand into women’s sports and new sport categories. 

“NFTs have the potential to be a powerful tool for bringing equity and investment to women’s sports,” Williams said in the press release. “I’m excited to start working alongside [CEO] Nicolas [Julia] and the team because they understand the relationship between athletes and fans unlike anyone else in the category, and I believe Sorare will be setting the culture and tone of the future of sports entertainment.”

As a VC investor, Williams is always keeping her eyes open for new high-growth initiatives, she told Fortune on Wednesday, which is what ultimately attracted her to the metaverse.  

“With the NFT market exploding, Sorare is doing more than just collectibles; they’re unlocking experiences,” Williams says. “They let fans interact with their favorite teams, especially now, in the middle of COVID.”

Investing in Web3 was important to Williams, she says, “so people who look like me know they have an opportunity to get involved.” 

Most of the wealth that will be generated by Web3 initiatives—like NFTs—will go to its earliest adopters, she argues, which shouldn’t be limited to wealthy crypto experts. “We want to get people involved who deserve to be involved, but who don’t have the same opportunities.”

Williams plans to use her advisory role to bring Sorare’s offerings to new groups of people. “I want to do more initiatives, see what we can do for different communities, and develop relationships with athletes around the world,” she says. 

Sorare’s CEO is convinced NFTs can bring real-world equity and investment into women’s sports. “That’s very important to us,” Julia told Fortune Wednesday.

It’s a trend that’s been gaining steam in recent months. In a December report, Deloitte predicted sports media NFTs will generate more than $2 billion in transactions in 2022, a twofold year-over-year increase. By the end of this year, Deloitte expects up to 5 million sports fans to have purchased, or been gifted, an NFT sports collectible. 

And more and more female athletes, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe and WNBA star Sue Bird, released NFT collectibles of their likenesses last year. 

“The NFT landscape is an opportunity to provide space for true ownership, crypto participation, and authentic creativity in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Rapinoe said at the time, according to Sportico.

Reddit cofounder, investor, and Williams’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, has said the same. “I’ve invested big in women’s sports, but the rise of NFTs and trading card boom is going to be HUGE for women’s sports,” he tweeted in March.

“These markets are male-dominated right now. Women are undervalued, just as they are in other markets, despite actually having much more influence on dollars,” he added in his Twitter thread, saying Sorare was “ignoring half the world.”

Ohanian was an angel investor at Sorare, which, at the time of these tweets, had a user base that was 18% female despite offering zero collectibles of women athletes, CNBC Make It reported in March 2021. 

“Think of Sorare as a new revenue stream [for female athletes],” Williams says. “It can increase brand visibility, and athletes can gain personal brand notoriety and interact with a global fan network. It can have major impact on women’s sports; collecting, trading, or supporting the teams and the favorite players really brings so much more than ever. Women’s sports have never had an opportunity like that. It’s honestly quite endless.

“Being an adviser, I get to see lots of companies coming up, and this is going to be a great opportunity for us to expand in ways we’ve never thought,” she adds. “It’s exciting, and it’s going to be so impactful.”

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