NFT

Candy Digital: Putting The Pastime on the Blockchain

With the launch of a secondary marketplace for MLB NFTs, Candy Digital has entered the next stage of its evolution.

A secondary market for officially licensed Major League Baseball NFTs is coming on Saturday and it’s safe to say that fans are ready. To the tune of $100 million.

With nine-figures-worth of pre-listings of previously released MLB NFTs already on Candy.com, Candy Digital CEO Scott Lawin anticipates bringing more baseball fans into the crypto world.

“We’re really excited to prove out our thesis of building a platform that’s fan first and bring a much wider audience into the crypto space,” Lawin told Boardroom. “It’s going to be an exciting beginning to the year.”

Candy Digital, the digital collectibles company backed by Fanatics, Galaxy Digital, and Gary Vaynerchuk, released its NFT platform in October and already boasts 80,000 customers, with customer and sales numbers exceeding internal expectations, Lawin said. At about the same time, Candy raised $100 million from investors as part of a Series A funding round, including SoftBank, Peyton Manning and Insight Partners, valuing the company at $1.5 billion.

There are currently four types of official MLB NFT products on Candy’s market:

  • Play of the Day
  • MLB Icon packs (a player-based product focused on all 81 All-Stars from this season and 30 top prospects)
  • The 2021 World Series collection
  • Team Candy Digital Jersey (its first metaverse-enabled collectible.

The secondary market will now give new users their first opportunity to register, make purchases, and build their collections. Existing customers no longer have to sell their Candy NFTs on OpenSea or Bitski, and over the next couple of months, Lawin said the company will continue to add more crypto functionality to the marketplace, including a bridge for people to take their assets out of Candy and bring them back to Ethereum, among other various crossing solutions.

“For us, it’s really about having a one-stop shop for fans and collectors,” he said. “Fans want one place to go where they can find officially licensed products, have content and community, and a secondary marketplace.”

Having fans able to communicate with both Candy and each other while buying and selling in one spot and also knowing the value of their officially authenticated NFTs is a big step for the company.

“As we roll out our roadmap, we’re actively encouraging people to give us their feedback and help us with our own prioritization,” Lawin said. “I think we’ve got a pretty clear vision of what we want to build, but we wanna make sure the community is with us every step of the way.”

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Building out branded ecosystems with their sports partners— which also includes top college football players and NASCAR’s Race Team Alliance, featuring 13 of the most prominent top NASCAR teams—and housing them in one place is something Candy is excited about. There will also be some interesting collection rewards introduced, diving into the history of trading cards and creating opportunities for people to interact with each other and build their collections the way they want.

When NIL went into effect in July, Candy signed 22 college football stars as part of its Sweet Futures series, including Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei, Georgia’s Nolan Smith and JT Daniels, North Carolina QB Sam Howell, new Oregon transfer Bo Nix and Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller. The second edition of Sweet Futures is coming in the first quarter of 2022, Lawin said, and will feature student-athletes outside football.

Another thing to look out for more broadly in the collectibles space in 2022 is how Fanatics’ $500 million purchase of Topps impacts the market. To start the year, Lawin said, things will be business as usual at Candy, but there will definitely be room in 2022 for Candy and Topps to collaborate in some way.

“Topps is a storied brand that’s 100 years old and has a great team in place across all the different elements of the collectible business,” Lawin said. “So I think it’s natural for us to take a look at where there are opportunities for us to collaborate and work together, but the first order of business is bringing Topps into the overall Fanatics family and making sure that the transition is smooth for everyone.”

Lawin is hopeful for an exciting February and March, with the NASCAR season underway and what he hopes is the start of MLB Spring Training, lockout pending.

“As fans, we’re going to be devastated if the start of the season is delayed, but from our perspective, we’ve got a great relationship with both Major League Baseball and with the Players’ Association,” Lawin said, admitting with a laugh that Play of the Day would be difficult to continue with if there are no games. “As we’re looking forward to putting product into the market, we have to navigate a little bit of those conversations with each of them, but we feel pretty confident that we’re still going to be able to put some compelling product in the market even if those negotiations aren’t finalized by Opening Day.”

As for Candy’s overall goals in 2022, it’s mainly looking to bring more people into the space, evolve its product set (including crypto functionality) and incorporate physical experiences with the digital products to give fans more utility with their collectibles.

“2021 was a remarkable year in crypto and NFTs,” Lawin said. “I think anybody who has been in the space or was in the space going into the year could not have predicted how much activity and volume actually took place. Everyone who’s in the community still feels like we’re at these very early stages of ultimately what this space is going to be. Candy’s mission is really to build products and build a user experience and a primary and secondary marketplace that makes it easy for folks to enter into this world for the first time. With us, you don’t have to have a digital wallet, you don’t have to own cryptocurrency and you can find, purchase, and engage with interesting, compelling NFTs.”

For Lawin and Candy, they’re hopeful that this is just the beginning.