The rise of sport as an investment

Illustration of a suitcase full of different sports balls

Image: Aïda Amer/Axios

“Sport” is often defined narrowly: either you’re an athlete or you’re a fan. In reality, the sports world extends far beyond that – and investors are becoming increasingly aware.

Driving the news: Will Ventures, a Boston-based early-stage venture capital firm, has just closed a new $150 million fund to continue investing in sports and sports-related companies.

  • Founded in 2019, the company has already invested in Future (personal training), Street FC (pickup soccer marketplace) and Candy Digital (digital collectibles), among others.
  • They have 17 professional sports team owners on board and they also have an exclusive deal with OneTeam Partners that allows them to leverage athletes to promote their portfolio companies.

Game Status: A few decades ago, the idea of ​​a sports-centric VC firm was a foreign concept. But as esports become more intertwined with media and technology, “investing with a sports focus” is now a strong thesis.

What you say: “Many of the things that esports are a key driver of — digital media, healthcare technology, the creator economy — are among the leading sectors within venture capital,” says co-founder Brian Reilly.

  • “This perceived niche market is actually the perfect lens to touch upon massive neighborhoods,” adds co-founder Isaiah Kacyvenski, a former NFL player.

Between the lines: We often think of ‘sport’ as an industry in its own right, but it’s actually more of a cultural touchstone with direct links to other sectors. Some examples:

  • Media: Sport is at the forefront of the streaming revolution that is transforming the way viewers consume content. And the rise of sports betting drives investments in viewer retention and interactivity (think live on-screen betting).
  • Health and Wellness: Athletes have always been motivated to feel and look their best. Technology now allows anyone to do this, and athletes are often involved as brand ambassadors or investors.
  • Web3: NFTs took the world by storm in 2021 and esports has been at the center of some of its biggest use cases such as NBA Top Shot (collectible highlights), Sorare (blockchain-based fantasy game) and digital tickets.

The big picture: Will Ventures is far from the only organization with a sports-centric view of investing.

The last word: Until recently, “sports and entertainment was an area that could use a more professional investment perspective,” says Michael Spirito, founding partner and lead investor of Sapphire Sport. “Now there are a number of players, which speaks to how great the opportunity is.”

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