New York Post


Sports sponsorshi­ps drying up in wake of digital currencies’ fall


Cryptocurr­ency companies poured billions of dollars into sports sponsorshi­ps in 2021 — but this year’s downturn has made the flood of cash dry up, The Post has learned.

As a so-called “crypto winter” takes hold and companies look to trim costs, firms that splurged heavily on sports deals last year are now looking to cut costs.

Crypto exchange FTX — which shelled out $135 million to rename the home of the Miami Heat in March 2021 — pulled out of talks to provide a jersey patch to MLB’s Los Angeles Angels in recent weeks as the crypto market tanked, sources with direct knowledge told The Post.

Another patch deal between the NBA’s Washington Wizards and a crypto company also recently fell through, the sources said.

Both deals were nixed as the market crumbled, the sources said. The Washington Wizards patch had been seen as particular­ly desirable for crypto companies since the politician­s and regulators who oversee the space attend their games.

The Angels declined to comment. FTX and the Washington Wizards did not respond to requests for comment.

Columbia University sports management professor Joe Favorito told The Post he would be “shocked” if any major new crypto sponsorshi­ps are inked during the current downturn.

“What money hasn’t been spent already you’re going to see curtailed — just like we saw during the dot-com bubble,” he said.

The spending slump comes after large crypto exchanges binged on sponsorshi­p deals in 2021 in an effort to woo sports fans, many of whom were flush with cash in a tight labor market, fresh on the heels of generous government stimulus from the pandemic.

In addition to renaming Miami’s arena, FTX paid an undisclose­d amount to become the MLB’s “official crypto exchange,” spent $20 million for an October ad campaign starring Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbac­k Tom Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen, and paid a reported $6.5 million for a Super Bowl commercial featuring Larry David, among many other sponsorshi­ps.

While FTX has not made any layoffs during the current crash, its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, appears to have felt the pain of the current downturn as his net worth reportedly plunged by billions.

FTX is far from the only crypto firm that spent big on sports deals.

Crypto layoffs

In October, the giant crypto exchange Coinbase paid an undisclose­d sum to become the NBA’s “exclusive cryptocurr­ency platform partner.” In February, the company ponied up an estimated $14 million for a one-minute Super Bowl ad.

Last week, the morning after airing a TV ad during the NBA Finals, Coinbase laid off 1,100 employees — about 18% of its workforce. Coinbase shares are down around 75% this year.

Coinbase did not respond to a request for comment.

Similarly, Singapore-based exchange shelled out a reported $700 million in November to rename Los Angeles’ Staples Center, where the Lakers and Clippers play. The company also splurged on a Super Bowl ad starring LeBron James, as well as another TV spot featuring Matt Damon.

Then on June 10, privatelyh­eld laid off 260 employees, roughly 5% of its workforce.

Both Coinbase and attributed the cost-cutting moves to the current bear market, which saw bitcoin plummet below $20,000 over the weekend after flirting with $70,000 last November. Ethereum has plunged 70% from its highs, trading at around $1,100 on Monday.

Bad memories

The Post reported in November that crypto companies were being forced to shell out more money for sports sponsorshi­ps than firms in more establishe­d industries because arena owners and teams had bad memories of the dot-com bubble.

Two major stadiums — Baltimore’s PSINet Stadium and Boston’s CMGI field — had to be rechristen­ed after their namesakes imploded in 2001.

Despite the current turmoil, there’s no indication or FTX are currently looking to back out of their stadium-naming rights deals, according to Chris

Lencheski, an ex-Comcast executive and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Profession­al Studies who has worked on arena-naming deals.

But if either of the companies were looking to back out, they would likely be forced to pay heavily, Lencheski told The Post. While the professor said he’s not privy to details of the or FTX arena deals, he said he has worked on contracts in the past where a company would have to pay out 55% of the remaining pact to exit a deal.

If were to withdraw from its 20-year, $700 million contract under such terms, the company would be on the hook for a whopping $385 million.

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