Collegiate sport fan experience platform Mercury has raised $7.5 million in a seed round led by Multicoin Capital. Other investors in the round include North Island Ventures, Crosslink Capital and Brevan Howard Digital, according to a company release.
Co-founded by Porter Grieve and Justin Johnson in 2021, Mercury connects collegiate sports brands to fans through hyper-localized fan experience platforms. The startup has partnered with University of Central Florida’s athletic department, Clemson University’s athletic department and has signed over 50 student athletes from Kentucky Athletics.
“We were focused on the collegiate space from the beginning because college fans are so tribal in how they interact with their teams and how they interact with the players they love is so rabid and slightly different from professional sports,” said Grieve in an interview with The Block. “The NCAA [Name, Image and Likeness] rule change, that just happened at the right time for us,” he added.
A hyper-localized fan experience
The platform will offer fans experiences, such as access to sit-down interviews with players and coaches, as well as limited NFT drops catered to each individual fan base.
For example, in the coming weeks, Mercury is reimagining Clemson’s “tombstone tradition” on its platform. Any time Clemson beats a ranked opponent away from home, they put a tombstone in a graveyard on campus. Mercury will bring Clemson tombstones to the platform as NFTs with the owners gaining access to real experiences, like kicking a field goal or meeting a player, Grieve said.
“Our core demographic that we want to reach is the average sports fan, rather than the person that loves speculating on NFTs or the NFT fans,” Grieve said. “To me, if we were to focus on that person, that would be like the NFL focusing on people who love tickets rather than people who love football.”
A web2 user experience
Grieve aims for the platform to feel as much like a web2 user experience as possible by enabling options such as payments with credit cards.
“It’s important that it’s on chain for everything that we’re building and where things will be going in the future,” Grieve said. “But we want the average sports fan, the 56-year-old alumni, to not feel like they need to understand or do a ton of reading on blockchain before they interact with one of our platforms.”
The platform is currently leveraging the Flow blockchain and all the assets are being custodied on Mercury, Grieve said. “Over time, things will evolve and things will shift as we feel like the consumer base evolves,” he added.
Ramping up hiring
The new funds will be used to expand their partnerships with the new schools as well as continue to grow their roster of student athletes.
They will also ramp up leadership hiring. Mercury recently hired sports media personality Adam Breneman as vice president of NIL and media. He will work with top athletes to cultivate their brands on platform as well as on Mercury’s Next Up podcast series.
“Mercury is building so much more than ‘NFT collectibles’; they have imagined, created, and delivered to top universities a net new experience for athletes and fans alike that wouldn’t be possible without the combination of blockchain technology and their deep substantive experience.” said Colleen Sullivan, co-head of ventures at Brevan Howard Digital, in the release.
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