Press Review - May 2022

NFL as the major investor in Fanatics’ latest fundraising round

With $320 million, the NFL is reportedly the largest investor in sports merchandising platform Fanatics’ most recent funding round valuated at $1.5 billion

Fanatics, the world’s largest seller of licensed sports merchandise, revealed on April the 7th that the NFL was the “single biggest investor” in the latest round announced by the company. The deal signed a 50% increase in Fanatics’ valuation, going from $18 billion to $27 billion.

According to the sports merchandising giant, the NFL wasn’t the only sports organization involved in this fundraising, as other major investors were Major League Baseball (MLB) and its owners, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), National Hockey League (NHL), Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai via his fund Blue Pool Capital, and the Qatar Investment Authority.

Fanatics is leading a diversification strategy that transformed it quickly into a multi-platform company including new commercial offers such as NFTs, trading cards, and sports betting. “With the latest financing, leagues, players’ associations and team owners now own approximately 10% of the business — which can be viewed as serious validation of the company and the direction in which it is headed. Institutional investors include BlackRock, Fidelity and MSD Partners, as well as some existing backers”, underpins. “Fanatics projects it will reach a staggering $5 billion in revenue this year. That’s up from $2.2 billion in revenue in 2017 when it closed on $1 billion in funding led by SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund. At that time, it was valued at $4.5 billion.”

OneFootball raises £300m to drive Web 3.0 growth

With more than 100 million monthly active users on its free and pay-per-view live streamed football platform, OneFootball wants to take fans from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0.

OneFootball, a football media platform, has raised $300 million to accelerate its growth and in particular an expansion into Web 3.0. “The fundraising was led by blockchain fund and incubator Liberty City Ventures and will be used to support OneFootball’s current business as well as its new joint venture – OneFootball Labs (with Animoca Brands and Liberty City Ventures – and backed by Everest Ventures Group) – and investments in leading Web3 companies”, said a company statement on April the 28th.

OneFootball Labs will enable content partners – clubs, leagues, federations and players – to release digital assets and fan-centric experiences based on blockchain technology. These products will be offered at different price points to make them widely accessible to fans that will be, technically, soon, able to purchase and store digital collectibles (NFTs). Lucas von Cranach, Founder and CEO of OneFootball “We believe the future of football away from the stands and off the pitch will be decentralised and built on Web3, giving back the ownership of data and digital assets to the fans. OneFootball and OneFootball Labs will transform the digital experiences for football fans, giving them more access, more ownership and bringing them even closer to the game we all love, in a way that’s never been done before.”

UEFA brings its Women’s Euro 2022 mascots to the Metaverse

Three months before the launch of the Women's Euro 2022, UEFA has unveiled the three mascots that will be joining football fans in England from July 6 to 31, while also mobilizing fans in the Roblox Metaverse platform.

The trio of mascots, Kai, Robyn, and Ashley will appear as interactive characters in the “The Road to UEFA Women’s EURO” game on Roblox, a Metaverse platform with over 50 million daily active users of which 50% are children under the age of 12.

UEFA has launched this operation to establish its presence on Roblox with the objective of gathering the attention of young users on the platform. UEFA identifies that this initiative would see the creation of a virtual game complemented by a skills challenge and it will feature an educational video series where the trio of mascots will showcase their own unique personality: Robyn is blessed with skills, captain Ashley captain with strength, and Kai with intelligence.

The UEFA Women’s EURO promises to be a record-breaking tournament. It has the potential to inspire millions of girls and boys to play football, so it is important for us to take the tournament to the platforms and spaces they occupy. We hope our new gaming experience will capture the imagination of children and get them to interact with football and the Women’s EURO in a way that we have never explored before”, states Guy-Laurent Epstein, Marketing Director at UEFA.

Investcorp about to buy AC Milan for $1.1 billion

Bahrain-based private equity group Investcorp is on track to purchase the Italian football club AC Milan, according to reports. The club is priced at about €1 billion.

As announced by the international press on April the 15th, the investment fund Investcorp has entered into exclusive negotiations with Elliott Management, owner of AC Milan since 2018, for the purchase of the prestigious Italian club, owned for more than three decades by the former chairman Silvio Berlusconi. The amount mentioned is $1.1 billion, which would be, by far, the highest transaction in the history of Italian football. The takeover come to pass by the end of the season. “Media entrepreneur and former Italian prime minister Berlusconi sold the club to Chinese investor Li Yonghong in 2017 for €740 million, including debts, before US-backed venture capitalists Elliott Management [...] took control in 2018 when Yonghong defaulted on the repayment of part of a €300 million package he used to finance the purchase of the Rossoneri from Berlusconi”, specifies.

A newcomer to the world of football, Investcorp has the means to achieve its ambitions. With $37 billion under management, mainly in the luxury sector (stakes in Gucci, Tiffany, and Leica), this fund is based in the emirate of Bahrain and operating in thirteen countries. It seems to be able to take up the challenge of taking over the most successful Italian club on the international scene, despite the catastrophic financial situation in which it has been plunged for years: The 2021 fiscal exercise ended with a deficit of €98 million, to which €40 million must already be added for the first six months of 2022.

Sponsorship agreement between FC Barcelona and Spotify ratified by supporters-shareholders

The mega-sponsorship deal between Barcelona and online music platform Spotify, unveiled on March the 15th by the Catalan club, has been ratified by an absolute majority on April the 3th by the representatives of the socios, the supporters-shareholders of the Blaugrana team.

The deal, which is expected to bring in €70 million a year for Barça for the next three seasons and €65 million in the fourth year, was approved by nearly 70 percent of online voters. "The vision for the partnership is to create a new platform to help artists interact with FC Barcelona’s global community of fans", the club said in a statement.

According to reports, the €70 million are divided between shirt sponsorship for the men's and women's teams (€60 million), training shirts (€5 million), and the naming of Camp Nou, which will become Camp Nou Spotify from next July (€5 million). The training shirt agreement is for the next three seasons, while the other two agreements are for four years. Spotify has also an option for the next eight seasons (2026-2034) for €160 million.

As activations of this sponsorship, the Spotify brand will be able to benefit from other forms of visibility such as the creation of a summer tournament in its name and sponsorship of youth shirts, and will be able to put its logo in the press room, in the mixed zone, on the benches, and behind the goals.