Today Japans’s Rakuten announced plans to launch a non-fungible token (NFT) platform. The company might best be described as a digital conglomerate. Its roots are in retail where it operates online shopping sites, runs online rewards and loyalty programs around the world, and is also heavily involved in finance. Apart from rewards, for NFTs one of its most relevant activities is the company’s involvement in sports.
Rakuten is the shirt sponsor and key partner of FC Barcelona, one of the world’s biggest soccer clubs and former home of Lionel Messi. It also sponsors the NBA team Golden State Warriors, the Tennis Davis Cup and Tokyo Open, as well Japanese baseball team Rakuten Eagles, and ladies golf in Japan.
It’s a big company with 100 million registered users in Japan and 1.4 billion globally.
In the spring of 2022, Rakuten plans to launch a marketplace for users to buy NFTs in various fields, including sports and entertainment such as music and animation.
And it intends to bring together various aspects of its business with NFTs, such as the ability to use rewards points, accumulate more points, and pay with a Rakuten ID. It explicitly mentions NFTs being awarded as prizes.
It wants to expand the NFT audience beyond the cryptocurrency crowd. “We aim to ‘democratize the NFT market’ so that a wide range of users can feel the value of owning NFTs by changing the market environment of NFTs,” said the company in a statement.
The Japanese firm started exploring blockchain back in 2016. In 2019 it partnered with Chinese blockchain startup Techrock, which authenticates goods. Meanwhile, Rakuten Securities is a founding member of the Japan Security Token Offering Association, which boasts most incumbent securities players as participants.
Fun fact: As of 2012, Rakuten changed its working language from Japanese to English. The CEO said this allowed the company to hire top talent and engineers globally. “I think this was one of the biggest success factors of Rakuten to become a truly global company,” said CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.