Drone Racing League lands $100M deal with Algorand crypto platform

Nicholas Horbaczewski, Drone Racing League CEO and Founder, talks new deal with crypto platform Algorand which will include the implentation of blockchain-enabled ticketing.

Video transcript

- We've seen lately a lot of crypto companies shelling out cash for some sponsorship deals. Mostly, you might have noticed the FTX patches on the MLB umpires and of course, the stadium naming rights they've locked up both down in Miami and now out at Berkeley. But it's not just them. Also, Algorand, another crypto blockchain out there throwing $100 million into the naming rights for the title over at the Drone Racing League, which is by itself been growing quite impressively.

And for more on that partnership, want to bring on Nicholas Horbaczewski, the CEO and founder of the Drone Racing League joins us once again here. And Nicholas, nice product placement right there right behind you, man, the Algorand logo right there. Talk to me about how important this is, right, and kind of bridging not only, you know, $100 million is a lot but also I think a crew in crypto that also seems pretty excited about drone racing.

NICHOLAS HORBACZEWSKI: Absolutely. It's a huge step for the league. Obviously, bringing in a new type of partner is very exciting. Algorand is the leading blockchain technology partner. They've got the scalable, decentralized blockchain that is going to enable the league to do things that we've never done before. So not only is this an incredible partnership for the league, but it's an opportunity for us to create unique fan experiences that we just wouldn't be able to do without a partner like Algorand.

- Yeah. No, I mean, obviously, every time you have that money to put to work, you know, I assume that you'd be able to grow of what you want to do in building out the sport, and obviously, it's come a long way since I think we first started talking about it years ago. But what have been maybe the biggest changes you've been able to implement, and what could this unlock moving forward?

NICHOLAS HORBACZEWSKI: Certainly. The league has been growing tremendously. And you know, we continue with our, you know, global broadcast. We've really brought the sport of drone racing to a mainstream audience around the world, tens of millions of viewers every season. But now bringing in Algorand and the potential of blockchain, we're going to have the opportunity to do things that we've never done before with fans. So NFTS and collectibles and fan tokens that let fans have a direct vote in what happens in the sport, you know, certainly sort of crypto-powered transactions and opportunities in virtual racing and gaming that you simply can't do without a powerful blockchain partner.

- Yeah. I wonder too much how gaming might play a role in there too, right? We've seen a lot of other traditional sporting leagues really lean into that now. You have the NFL pursuing a lot of deals in that side. But what about drone racing, particularly?

NICHOLAS HORBACZEWSKI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean gaming is a big part of our sport. We're a very interesting sport because our fans like to say we sit on the virtual-- this blurry line between the virtual and the real so gaming and e-sports is part of our sport. We do an annual tryout through a simulator, but then of course, we're obviously doing real-life racing with drones going 90 plus miles an hour through stadiums. So we have an opportunity to really play with that space in a way that both traditional leagues can.

- We're showing a little bit of the footage here from the drone races of past. And I mean, it's always fun and incredible to kind of watch the footage. You guys do a great job of making it look great. I'm always curious though, what the demographic is of the drone racing fans out there.

NICHOLAS HORBACZEWSKI: Yeah, absolutely. So our fans are global. So we have a global fan base of people who are interested in technology, in video games, in sports, and we're this perfect combination for them. We bring together a sport that touches on drones, it obviously brings to bear, and gives them something exciting and novel to watch. So you know, it's a pretty young fan base, that's one of our things.

And one of the most interesting things about our fanbase is that they don't really overlap with traditional sports. More than 70% of our fans don't watch traditional big five sports. So it's really a new group of people being introduced to sports. We call them tech-setters. They're people who love technology, but also are excited about novel tech-enabled sports like ours.

- The other thing too is kind of where to watch. We've seen other kind of startup sports leagues, which I wouldn't necessarily classify you guys as anymore. But we've seen other ones fail without that big media push. You guys obviously broadcast these things across a slate of some pretty major sports networks. But what is kind of the media progress and growth on that side the partnership side look like for the future of the Drone Racing League?

NICHOLAS HORBACZEWSKI: You know, we're very excited to be broadcast around the world and to work with incredible media partners. We're actually gearing up now. Our 2021/2022 season starts Wednesday, September 29 at 8:00 PM Eastern on NBCSN and as well as Twitter. And we're pretty excited. This season will be great because this season we're taking over the Wednesday night slots that the NHL used to have on NBCSN, so it's great for us. It's moving into the prime slots formerly held by a big five sport, and we'll have slots on primetime, over 30 hours of primetime airing on time slots like Christmas Day, lead ins to the Winter Olympics. So it's a pretty exciting time for us, and you're seeing us take huge steps forward in terms of where we're broadcast and how often.

- Is it fair to say that this is mostly an American phenomenon? What are we looking at global-wide with the demographic question I asked. How big is it in terms of international growth now?

NICHOLAS HORBACZEWSKI: No, I mean, we have fans in over 100 countries. You know, it is truly a global sport. Drone racing was always a global sport. We've built a global league on the back of a global sport so we reach people all over the world. We obviously have tons of fans in North America, but markets like Europe, the Middle East, China are all huge for us as well from a broadcast standpoint.

- Yeah, every time I see the footage it just reminds me of Star Wars and a young Skywalker or droning around in the future there. Obviously, that was a global sport. That was an intergalactic sport, I believe, at that time. But very interesting to see the growth. Appreciate you coming on here to chat with us and the new partnership, congrats again. CEO and founder of the Drone Racing League, Nicholas Horbaczewski joining us there. Appreciate that.