Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency have begun to permeate into most aspects of life; trading, shopping, even gambling and they are also now making headways in the sporting world.
The UFC, for example, recently signed a landmark sponsorship deal with a crypto company and many other franchises are also tapping into the booming market. By 2024, it’s predicted that the global blockchain market will generate $20bn in revenue.
However, the NFL (National Football League) has not been so eager. Though it’s difficult to get an exact figure on the league’s worth, it is undoubtedly one of the most valuable sporting leagues in the world. Combined, its 32 teams are valued at roughly $100bn – it is big business.
Online NFL betting is an enormous market – it’s estimated that roughly 45.2 million Americans will have placed a wager on the current season, totalling to at least $12bn.
So, it’s understandable that blockchain tech and cryptocurrency companies are keen to partner with the NFL, however they’ve been met with some sizable hurdles. In recent months the league announced that it is implementing a ban on teams selling sponsorships and advertisements to cryptocurrency firms.
This restriction also extends to firms who deal in NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which work on blockchain technology as well.
The NFL, in its announcement of this new policy, explained that it will be taking a closer look at crypto and NFTs in order to develop a comprehensive strategy and that the restrictions on sponsorship will remain in place until that is complete.
The league has been recruiting for a director of emerging products who will specifically look at blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. This is an encouraging sign that the NFL is taking the prospect of working with these firms very seriously.
Individual NFL players are not exempt from such sponsorships though, further suggesting that the league is willing to embrace this new market. Tom Brady, for example, even has his own NFT platform called Autograph.
It seems likely that NFTs are the gateway to the NFL working in the crypto space, as they recently signed a deal with Dapper Labs to create an official platform for the league. That is the company who recently worked with the NBA to launch their NFT platform, NBA Top Shot.
The NFL’s marketplace will work in a similar way with fans able to purchase digital clips of famous and memorable NFL plays.
The NFL have been cautious in the past when embracing uncertain markets, most namely with gambling and alcohol. They were one of the last major leagues in the US to allow gambling and liquor sponsors, a rule change that largely came about because of the legalization of sports betting in most states from 2018.
It seems they’re adopting a similar approach to crypto and blockchain tech because there are still plenty of questions about the longevity and safety of the marketplace. Scams, market volatility and a lack of empirical research have all been issues for the crypto space in recent years and it’s unlikely the NFL will fully commit until it knows exactly what it would be working with.
That being said, there are plenty of opportunities for the NFL to have a rewarding relationship with the crypto and blockchain world. The most obvious is, of course, sponsorships.
Numerous crypto firms such as Litecoin and etoro have sponsored a range of franchises across different sports, generating lots of revenue for them. These companies would be falling over themselves to sponsor NFL franchises and would pay top dollar to do so.
As the NFL is likely to soon discover with its new platform, the NFT market is a rapidly growing one and offers yet another stream of revenue for the league, without much expense on their end.
NFTs have already proven extremely popular with sports fans who want to ‘own’ pieces of history from their favorite teams or athletes. The NFL has a wealth of content to draw upon to flesh out its NFT market on the blockchain.
Another interesting opportunity that blockchain technology could provide is new ways for fans to purchase tickets and merchandise. Many industries now accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment and sports such as soccer are actively embracing it.
Some ticket outlets allowed fans to purchase tickets to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with several approved forms of cryptocurrency. Such developments could open the NFL to younger and more diverse audiences.
Admittedly, a lot needs to happen before the NFL reaches stages like that, or even using cryptocurrency for its own transactions as other sports have started to do, but it’s clear the league is open to the idea of using blockchain technology, or at least embracing firms as sponsors.
As more is learned about the industry, it’s likely the NFL will begin to relax its restrictions on sponsorships and begin to reap the benefits of working with this emerging market. The NFL is one of the most well-established franchises in the sporting world, and a collaboration with blockchain technology could be a gamechanger.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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