The 2021-2022 Drone Racing League World Championship season officially kicked on September 29th, and today we’re taking a closer look at the league that has captured the attention of millions around the world. For those that may be unfamiliar, the Drone Racing League (DRL) is the world’s premier, professional drone racing property, where the best drone pilots in the world fly in the league as millions of fans watch them race on NBC and Twitter. With groundbreaking technology and immersive high-speed races through virtual and live events, the DRL is breaking all kinds of barriers as they create this new era of sports, combining both esports and real-life competition.
Drone Racing League
DRL President Rachel Jacobson
The DRL continues to elevate with each new season, and this year they are taking things up a notch. The league recently closed a blockbuster sponsorship deal with blockchain partner Algorand for $100MM, in what is set to be a long-term partnership with many exciting updates along the way. With tons of momentum around the league and this upcoming season, we spoke with DRL President Rachel Jacobson—a woman who is leading the charge in a male-dominated industry by the way, about the 21-22 Season, the history of the league, and how her previous experiences as the NBA’s SVP of Global Partnerships prepared her for a role as President of the DRL.
ONE37pm: Congrats on the 2021-2022 season kicking off! Some of our readers are being introduced to drone racing for the first time. Can you give them a brief history of the league?
Jacobson: For anyone that is new to DRL, get ready for your new favorite sport! The Drone Racing League is different from any other mainstream sport where the best pilots in the world compete in front of millions of fans on national broadcasts. Our league is at the intersection of the technology and sports worlds in what is a hybrid of virtual and live events. Going back a little further, our founder Nicholas Horbaczewski created this league in 2015 in what was at the time an underground hobby, and eventually, he decided to invest in the technology, media, and sports ecosystem to turn this hobby into a global, professional sports property.
ONE37pm: You spent 21 years at the NBA as their SVP of Global Partnerships, how did your experiences there prepare you for what you are doing now with DRL?
Jacobson: Well, beyond undergrad, I would say that I achieved all of my other degrees through my two decades at the NBA. I had the pleasure of working with two of the best in the industry David Stern and Adam Silver, and in my time there I learned so much in terms of training, marketing, events, and global partnerships, which in turn have prepared me for what I am doing now in the DRL. Not only was I able to learn from my experiences, but I was also able to gain knowledge from many other people like NBA team owners. At the NBA, you have to constantly be innovating and evolving the brand.
Everybody is constantly fighting for market share, so you have to always be growing. At DRL, innovation is what drives us and we are constantly developing new groundbreaking technology to advance our sport.
ONE37pm: Ahead of the 2021-2022 season the DRL recently closed a blockchain sponsorship with blockchain partner Algorand. Could you talk a little more about that?
Jacobson: It’s exciting! We have been really focused on scaling the league, as we are determined to be one of the most successful leagues in the world. We look to partner with the most innovative companies and marketers, and Algorand is a team of visionaries, disruptors, and innovators. We’ve been keeping up in the crypto and blockchain world for a while now, as our fans are tech-savvy and into crypto. Our partnership with Algorand is one with amazing chemistry.
Algorand is the most technically advanced organization in blockchain, and they are aligned with our brand. There is a lot that we will do together, like NFTs for ticketing, blockchain-enabled transactions, and prizes, and even building a digital drone racing series in the metaverse!
ONE37pm: Lastly, what can we expect from the season?
Jacobson: We are running hybrid competitions across esports in our SIM and in-person drone races in Minneapolis, Memphis, and a to-be-announced location for the final race of the season. Due to Covid protocols, we are only having a limited amount of people at these events, but we are hoping to have a packed crowd for the championship!
We have new partnerships and the league is continuing to evolve, and we are disrupting the big five sports. Millions of people are already interested, and we want even more to get involved! The DRL is thrilling and different from other sports, and we have primetime hours on NBC including Christmas Day and lead-ins to the Winter Olympics.
It’s going to be an exciting year for the DRL so make sure you stay tuned. You can check in with the DRL squad every Wednesday night at 8 pm EST on NBCSN and Twitter, and visit the official website for more updates as the season continues.