Socios, a startup that makes officially-licensed “fan tokens” for sports teams and leagues, is continuing its American expansion apace. Last month, the firm announced deals with 13 National Football League (NFL) teams, and now it has agreed to marketing and fan engagement deals with Major League Soccer (MLS) and nearly all of the teams in the league.
Today, Socios announced a multi-year fan engagement deal with MLS and 25 additional teams in the league, including major clubs like the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC, and Atlanta United. Socios had already inked a deal with the New England Revolution in November 2021, alongside the NFL’s New England Patriots.
The agreement makes Socios an “official partner” of Major League Soccer, said a Socios representative, which enables access to the MLS IP and “allows for greater integration across platforms.” The league-wide deal is a different approach than Socios has taken with the NFL, with which it does not have an official league marketing deal.
That said, while Socios has a deal with the league, two teams—DC United and Charlotte FC—didn’t opt into the agreement. According to a representative, this is due to those teams’ respective pre-existing sponsorship conflicts.
Like the firm’s deals with 14 total NFL teams and 28 NBA teams, the MLS partnerships do not currently include a fan token component. A fan token is a blockchain-backed crypto token that enables unique benefits to holders, such as access to a private community of holders along with perks like voting on team decisions and entry in contests.
Instead, the deals are focused on various digital fan engagement opportunities—such as chat rooms, polls, and contests—along with marketing integration, such as online integrations and digital signage for Socios at MLS games.
Last month, Socios Chief Strategy Officer Max Rabinovitch told Decrypt that the firm was taking a “very slow and conservative” approach towards American team deals, citing reluctance from sports leagues towards launching crypto tokens at this time.
“I don't necessarily blame the leagues for being very cautious in that approach, because it's a sea change decision,” he said. “It's something where, I think—once they say yes, they have to really be committed to that.”
Socios currently has deals in place with more than 125 sports and esports teams and leagues around the world—particularly in Europe—and has launched 50 fan tokens on its Chiliz Chain, a blockchain platform forked from Ethereum. European soccer giants like FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Juventus have released fan tokens through Socios.
Major League Soccer also recently announced a multi-year agreement with Sorare, an Ethereum-based fantasy soccer game based around NFTs. An NFT works like a deed of ownership to a digital item, and in the case of Sorare, players collect officially-licensed NFT trading cards and use them to form team lineups in the competitive fantasy game.