• League’s mix of virtual and physical worlds gives an “unprecedented opportunity” for broad, deep blockchain integrations, Algorand CEO says
  • Most of league’s fans are tech-savvy people between the ages of 16 and 34 who don’t follow traditional sports, according to DRL president

Layer-1 protocol Algorand and the Drone Racing League (DRL) announced a long-term partnership on Tuesday that is expected to lead to next-generation fan experiences on the blockchain and bring decentralized gaming applications to DRL. 

The news comes amid crypto companies seeking out alliances in the sports realm. Crypto exchange FTX penned a deal with Major League Baseball earlier this year and has named high-profile athletes like Tom Brady and Stephen Curry global ambassadors to further the reach of its brand and tout the viability of cryptocurrency.

A tech-centric league like the DRL is perfect for blockchain activations, Algorand CEO Steve Kokinos said, as drone racing merges the virtual and physical worlds.

“Stick and ball sports aren’t tech-powered by nature, so they can’t easily or deeply integrate emerging technology,” he told Blockworks. “On the opposite end you have esports competitions, which take place solely in the virtual world and so cannot showcase blockchain applications in the same way that drone racing can.”

The New York-based Drone Racing League, founded in 2015, is set to launch its season on Sept. 29, during which the world’s 12 best drone pilots will compete in real and virtual courses. Physical race locations include the home stadium to Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United, the arena of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, and a championship race location to be announced.  

Through media partnerships with NBC and Twitter, the 2021-22 season includes 30 hours of drone racing, including on Christmas Day and lead-ins to the Winter Olympics. 

DRL President Rachel Jacobson said that the league is “always looking to get smarter” for its millions of fans, many of whom are between the ages of 16 and 34 and don’t follow traditional sports or esports but enjoy gaming and technology.

“We work with Wasserman and leverage their proprietary tools and custom surveys, and we have learned that our fans are incredibly tech-savvy and obsessed with cutting edge innovation,” Jacobson said. “So blockchain and crypto are right in their wheelhouse.”

In the next five years, Algorand will have the title rights of the DRL World Championship circuit and DRL will develop a digital drone racing series built into Algorand’s blockchain network. The companies will also push the power of Algorand blockchain through DRL’s broadcast, social and gaming channels.

The partnership was announced a day after SkyBridge Capital and NAX revealed that the firms would team up to launch a platform, for which Algorand would be the protocol.

Executives at the firms noted Algorand’s high transactions per second, low fees and the Algorand Virtual Machine, which was released in June in an effort to improve smart contract development and allow developers to create powerful digital apps.

Argentina-based Koibanx also announced at the end of August its deal with El Salvador, which recently made bitcoin legal tender, to develop its blockchain infrastructure on top of Algorand’s technology.

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  • Ben Strack is a Denver-based reporter covering macro and crypto-native funds, financial advisors, structured products, and the integration of digital assets and decentralized finance (DeFi) into traditional finance. Prior to joining Blockworks, he covered the asset management industry for Fund Intelligence and was a reporter and editor for various local newspapers on Long Island. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism. Contact Ben via email at [email protected]