Dec 7, 2021 - Economy

Sports take crypto mainstream

Illustration of a bitcoin connected to a baseball, basketball, and soccer ball

Illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cryptocurrency companies are inking big sports deals, for everything from stadium naming rights to athlete and apparel partnerships.

Why it matters: If the crypto industry wants to move further into the mainstream, it needs to reach a broader audience.

The big picture: Since crypto exchange FTX announced its $135 million deal in April for naming rights to the Miami Heat's arena, it's also bought naming rights to UC Berkeley's football stadium, announced a global cricket partnership, and was ubiquitous during the MLB postseason.

  • paid a record amount for naming rights to the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
  • Coinbase struck partnerships with the NBA and WNBA, esports group Team Liquid and Adidas.
  • FTX has taken investments from Tom Brady and Steph Curry, both of whom the company calls "brand ambassadors." Before going public, Coinbase investors included Kevin Durant and Serena Williams.

Between the lines: Part of this is brand awareness, part is greater crypto industry exposure. Sports sponsorships can earn lots of eyeballs, minus most controversy.

  • "The fact that a major sports league and a team and the city are comfortable, a lot of opportunities opened up," Avi Dabir, FTX's VP of business development, says of the Miami arena deal.
  • He adds that FTX is now facing stiffer competition from peers for new sports deals.

The bottom line: These deals were quickly mocked on Twitter, but they're being driven by a viable growth philosophy.

Go deeper