ESPN has clambered aboard the NFT bandwagon: The sports giant is going into business with Tom Brady, angling to sell fans on the idea of owning a digital piece of the famed NFL quarterback’s legacy.
ESPN inked a multiyear deal with Autograph, the NFT startup co-founded by Brady, to release its first nonfungible tokens. NFTs provide a way to authenticate ownership of digital content, using distributed blockchain networks — and media and entertainment companies have flocked to NFTs as a way to generate incremental revenue and boost fan loyalty.
The collaboration kicks off Wednesday (April 6) with the release at 5 p.m. ET of an NFT collection based on “Man in the Arena: Tom Brady,” the 10-part ESPN Plus documentary series produced by Religion of Sports, a media company in which Brady is also a co-founder.
The prices for the NFTs will range from $100 to $500. The “Man in the Arena: Tom Brady Collection” NFTs are exclusively available to view on autograph.io and may be purchased on the DraftKings Marketplace for NFTs. The collection consists of three ESPN digital “zine covers” illustrating Brady’s career, wins and achievements. There are 50 NFTs from the collection signed digitally by Brady (priced at $500 each) along with 100 NFTs of the “Tom Brady: Legacy” cover ($250 each) and 250 NFTs of the “Tom Brady: Greatest of All Time” cover ($100 each).
ESPN’s first NFT release coincides with Disney releasing the docuseries across Hulu and Disney Plus — in addition to ESPN Plus — for a “limited time.”
A second NFT collection from ESPN and Autograph — themed “Back in the Arena,” alluding to Brady’s reversing his decision to retire with plans to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season — will drop in conjunction with the premiere later this month of the series’ 10th and final episode on ESPN Plus. (There’s no confirmed date yet for the episode’s release.)
“ESPN is excited to offer our first NFTs to meet our fans at the intersection of sports, technology and content,” said Kevin Lopes, ESPN’s VP of sports business development and innovation. “Our work with ESPN Edge [an R&D partnership formed with Accenture; Microsoft and Verizon] has led us to where we are today, exploring new, innovative ways of engaging fans, and we are thrilled to partner with Autograph for this collection and others in the future.”
“Man in the Arena,” directed by Gotham Chopra, features interviews with Brady and other sports figures breaking down milestones of the quarterback’s NFL career. The docuseries explores “the psychological and emotional terrain of each victory and defeat,” per Religion of Sports.
L.A.-based Autograph, in addition to its NFL partnership with DraftKings, has worked with Lionsgate to release digital collectibles based on the studio’s intellectual property. Autograph has released NFTs for Brady and other sports stars, including Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky, Tony Hawk, Rob Gronkowski, Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Usain Bolt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tiger Woods.
“This unique collection around Tom’s ‘Man in the Arena’ docuseries marks the beginning of our relationship with ESPN,” Dillon Rosenblatt, co-founder and CEO of Autograph, said in a statement. “As the first NFT partner for ESPN, the possibilities across sports and technology are endless, and we couldn’t be more excited to get this content out to the world in a massive way.”