Thursday, September 21, 2023

The NFL Now Lets Teams Chase Blockchain Sponsors, But Bans Specific Crypto and Fantoken Deals

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The National Football League now allows teams to secure sponsorships with blockchain companies. However, it will still prohibit them from promoting specific cryptocurrencies and fantokens, according to a report by CNBC† This reverses the NFL’s previous decision to ban teams from cryptocurrency sponsorship entirely.

In an internal memo reviewed by CNBC, the NFL says it will allow “promotional relationships without excessive regulators or brand risk,” which will not include stadium signage. It also claims that “clubs will continue to be prohibited from directly promoting cryptocurrency”.

Sponsorships between teams and blockchain companies can last up to three years for the sake of “flexibility,” Joe Ruggiero, the NFL’s chief of consumer products, said in a statement to CNBC. This prevents long-term deals, much like’s $700 million 20-year deal with the LA Staples Center, now known as the Arena. He also told the outlet that the competition is considering selling its blockchain rights to a specific company.

While the rule change also allows teams to advertise NFTs and the companies behind them, it does not allow the use of official logos and other markings in the ads. It also blocks teams from “participating in product licensing agreements or sponsorships for NFTs or NFT firms.” It will however, allow the use of logos and direct sponsorships if they are “associated with League-level NFT partnerships.” Last year, the NFL teamed up with NFT company Dapper Labs, creating a whole market of NFTs made up of memorable moments from past games.

The NFL’s reluctance to support specific cryptocurrencies and fantokens is understandable. In December, the British advertising regulator banned the Arsenal FC football team from promoting its own fan token to allegedly misleading fans about the risks associated with cryptocurrency. Not to mention that the CEO of the popular Socios exchange – where most of these fantokens live – was accused of manipulating the value of the crypto used on the platform earlier this month.

“In this evolving regulatory environment, it remains essential that we carefully evaluate potential commercial opportunities related to blockchain technologies, and exercise due diligence on all potential partners and their business models,” the memo adds. The NFL will meet with team owners on Saturday to discuss the changes to the rules surrounding the blockchain.

That said, the NFL hasn’t exactly been conservative when it comes to experimenting with NFTs and cryptocurrencies. The league attached commemorative NFTs to the tickets of some of its games last year and did it again for Super Bowl LVI† It too together with trading card company Panini to develop the competition’s first NFT trading card packs.

And despite banning cannabis ads, the Super Bowl did broadcast a wildly popular Coinbase ad that crashed the crypto exchange’s app. NFL players have also dived into the crypto marketstarring Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham Jr. who received part of their salary in crypto and the not-yet-retired Tom Brady who founded his own NFT agency called Autograph.

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