Tennis legend Serena Williams has joined European NFT company Sorare as an advisor to its board of directors. Williams will provide guidance on topics including athlete relationships, expansion, and diversity and inclusion initiatives, as Sorare looks to broaden both its footprint and its offerings, with a particular eye on women’s sports.
Sorare’s value proposition in the thriving digital collectibles market combines the concepts of NFTs with fantasy contests. The Paris-based company’s NFTs function as both collectibles and gaming tokens that can be used in fantasy-style contests for real money.
Williams’ new role deepens Sorare’s ties to the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s family. Williams’ husband, Reddit co-founder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, is an investor in the company.
“Serena Williams is one of the most iconic athletes: She has been extremely successful both on the tennis court and off, has a great track record of early investing and [brings] vision and insight, especially for a new technology platform like Sorare,” Michael Meltzer, head of business development at Sorare, said in a phone interview. “She will be an incredible resource for us. We look at ourselves as a global company, and Serena is a global figure and can think on that scale.”
The company has plans to expand into women’s sports and new sport categories in 2022. In addition to Williams’ ties to tennis, both she and Ohanian are investors in NWSL expansion club Angel City FC, and Ohanian has reportedly advocated for Sorare to make inroads in women’s soccer.
“NFTs have the potential to be a powerful tool for bringing equity and investment to women’s sports,” Williams said in a statement. “I’m excited to start working alongside Nicolas [Julia, Sorare CEO] 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.”
Sorare’s trading volume jumped from $7 million in 2020 to $325 million in 2021 as it expanded its partner portfolio to more than 230 sports clubs and teams. The company’s largest presence is in European soccer—with hundreds of partnerships, including those with Spain’s LaLiga and Germany’s Bundesliga—as well as one with MLS. OneTeam Partners helped the MLSPA sign a licensing agreement with Sorare in July.
Sorare opened a U.S. office in 2021, welcoming a pair of U.S. gaming executives into the fold in a push to grow its presence in North America. The company, founded in 2018, was valued at $4.3 billion in its $680 million Series B funding round in September. Its additional backers include SoftBank, venture capital firms Accel and Benchmark, and current and retired soccer players including Antoine Griezmann, Gérard Piqué and Rio Ferdinand.