A Crypto-Rich NBA Season Is Coming to an End


The Warriors have reportedly already signed a sponsorship deal with FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange, worth $10 million. Curry himself earlier this year appeared in an advertisement for FTX, in which he repeatedly notes that he is not a crypto expert. And the industry featured in ads during the finale, including an ad from Coinbase, another exchange, poking fun at crypto skeptics by showing different tweets over the years claiming “Crypto is dead,” followed by words “Long live crypto”.

But as an NBA season and postseason awash in cryptocurrency sponsorships wrapped up this week, the crypto industry faced new challenges. The price of many cryptocurrencies has fallen, with Bitcoin falling to just over $20,000 this week from an all-time high of nearly $69,000 in November. Meanwhile, a wave of layoffs has spread across the sector to prepare for a possible prolonged economic downturn. Now, the optics of these agreements may have changed.

Every sports fan this year has been bombarded with crypto, including ads, arena name changes, logos on jerseys, and NFT offers. But even by that standard, the NBA stood out. In the past year alone, crypto has risen to the second highest spend sector in NBA sponsorships, up from 43rd, according to IEG, a consulting firm in sports partnerships. Cryptocurrency brands have spent more than $130 million on NBA sponsorship this season, compared to less than $2 million last season, according to the firm.

“The influx of spending is unlike anything we’ve seen before. I was expecting it to potentially be a bit more measured, but it’s literally been like a runaway train,” Peter Laatz, global managing director at IEG, told CNN Business. “They were kind of spraying money all over the place.”

According to IEG, just five crypto companies, including Crypto.com, Coinbase and FTX, were responsible for 92% of industry spending that helped the NBA reach $1.6 billion in annual sponsorship fees this season. The company described the spending between companies as “a bit of an arms race”.


Then the market moved. On Tuesday, a day after Coinbase aired its “long live crypto” ad during Game 5, the startup announced the layoff of 1,100 people. In an email to staff, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong noted the possibility of a recession, which he said “could lead to another crypto winter and could last for an extended period of time.”

Coinbase said advertising is an integral part of its ongoing deal with the NBA, as the company signed a multi-year deal in October with the league to serve as the NBA’s exclusive cryptocurrency platform partner and the WNBA. “This ad was part of a pre-arranged package that came with our NBA sponsorship,” according to a company spokesperson.

Crypto.com, another cryptocurrency exchange, bought the naming rights to the Los Angeles Lakers stadium in November, a deal worth $700 million. He also signed a multi-year deal to become the Philadelphia 76ers. official shirt crest partner. Crypto.com announced this week that it is laying off 260 employees due to the market downturn.

In a statement, the company said it remains “focused on investing resources in product and engineering capabilities to develop world-class products, as well as our strategic sports partnerships and believes they will continue. to play a crucial role in our mission to accelerate the world. transition to cryptocurrency.”

Binance, the rare crypto company to hire at the moment, recently appeared to be looking into sponsorship deals made by other startups. In a job adBinance CEO Changpeng Zhao said, “It wasn’t easy saying no to Super Bowl ads, stadium naming rights, big sponsorship deals a few months ago, but we got it. do.”

IEG’s Laatz said the “only thing” he could think of to compare crypto sponsorship deals with was corporate spending activity during the dotcom bubble. everything blew up and the deals disappeared,” he said.

But as long as the sponsorship checks keep coming in, the NBA won’t feel the pain, Laatz said. “Teams … would take that money over and over again,” he said. “Getting it for a few years is better than getting nothing.”

With or without the same number of sponsorship deals in the future, there are other ways the close connection between the NBA and the broader crypto industry can continue, including through NFTs, which are items of digital content related to the blockchain, the digital database underlying cryptocurrencies.

The NBA is involved in the NFT marketplace with NBA Top Shot, a league-focused NFT marketplace that allows fans to buy, sell, and trade basketball highlights, or “Moments.” Top Shot, launched by Dapper Labs, went public in October 2020 and has major investors in the game, including Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.

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A Crypto-Rich NBA Season Is Coming to an End

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