In brief

  • NFT studio Candy Digital has raised $100 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.
  • It’s majority owned by sports merchandise firm Fanatics and is the official NFT partner of Major League Baseball.

Candy Digital launched in June as the official NFT partner of Major League Baseball, swinging for the fences with officially licensed MLB crypto collectibles. Now the Fanatics-owned studio has raised a sizable chunk of funding as it eyes continued expansion in the NFT space.

Today, Candy Digital announced that it has raised a $100 million Series A funding round that values the company at $1.5 billion. Sports merchandise firm Fanatics is the majority owner of Candy Digital, which was co-founded by Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin alongside Galaxy Digital founder and CEO Mike Novogratz and investor and NFT entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Insight Partners and Softbank’s Vision Fund 2 co-led the fundraise, with participation from Connect Ventures—an investment alliance between Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA)—as well as Will Ventures, Gaingels, and Athletes Syndicate in partnership with Chaos Ventures.

Retired NFL player Peyton Manning also invested in Candy Digital, alongside other unnamed professional athletes. Candy Digital plans to use the funds to expand its team as it further scales its NFT business. Beyond MLB and the MLB Players Association, Candy Digital currently has deals with the Race Team Alliance (RTA)—which represents 13 NASCAR teams—along with an array of college athletes.

An NFT acts like a blockchain-backed deed of ownership to a rare digital item, whether it’s an illustration, video file, or something else entirely. The market for NFTs has skyrocketed so far in 2021, including $10.67 billion in trading volume in the third quarter.

Sports collectibles have been one of the largest segments of the burgeoning NFT industry, led by Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot platform, which has generated more than $750 million in secondary trading volume to date. Dapper is currently preparing NFL and LaLiga NFT marketplaces as well, while Tom Brady’s competing Autograph NFT platform features collectibles from a number of popular athletes, including Tiger Woods and Simone Biles.

Candy Digital—which mints its NFTs on Palm, an Ethereum sidechain—is currently focused on expanding its Major League Baseball NFT ecosystem. Recently, it launched a daily MLB Play of the Day collectible, and has rolled out a new marketplace that lets users buy and sell their NFTs.

Next week, Candy will launch digital packs of MLB Icon collectibles similar in approach to NBA Top Shot moments, each featuring video footage of a popular baseball player in a trading card-like design. Additional MLB NFT products are planned in the coming weeks, including collectibles based on the upcoming World Series.

Outside of Candy Digital, Fanatics also has a new trading card business that is already valued at $10.4 billion following a $350 million funding round. Fanatics Trading Cards pulled away sports licenses such as MLB and the NBA from established rivals like Topps and Panini, offering the leagues and their respective players’ associations equity in the new venture.