NASCAR chief digital officer Tim Clark said he first reached out to Zed Run execs early this year, as the startup saw explosive growth amid a wave of interest in blockchain applications. Clark said he’s taken calls with nearly 40 vendors or potential partners in the nascent category, but the racing organization decided not to join others in quickly pushing out NFT products.
“We’re bullish on the idea that there is going to be this notion of the metaverse, where a virtual version of yourself will exist and be able to move around in that environment and ecosystem,” Clark said in an interview. “How that is going to proliferate itself across NASCAR is very much a long-term play for us.”
The two parties are still finalizing details, which could include venue and broadcast activations for Zed Run, as well as the potential future appearances of team, driver and track IP in Zed Run’s digital universe. To start, Zed Run will create a number of NASCAR-branded horses. Distribution or sales plans are still being determined. “We’re going to have to dip a toe into the water here,” Clark said.
Last month, Zed Run owner Virtually Human Studio announced a $20 million Series A round, with funding from The Chernin Group and Andreesen Horowitz. At the time, the company said that “deeper partner integrations” were on the way. Around the same time, Zed Run auctioned 20 Atari-themed horses for a total of more than $410,000.
“Recreating what fandom means through the concept of ownership, the NASCAR and VHS partnership will lay the foundation by exploring innovation around NFTs and what it means to have skin in the game” VHS CEO Chris Laurent said in a statement.
Definitions of the metaverse differ, ranging from a vision of combining physical and digital realities (using tech like augmented-reality goggles) to recreating a virtual world online, but sports are slowly making their way into early versions. In July, for instance, LeBron James joined the action as a character in Fortnite.