NFL Approves Limited Blockchain Sponsorships — How Further Crypto/NFT Lenience Could Expand Profits Exponentially

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May Lim /

As the sports world and the crypto space are becoming increasingly intertwined, the NFL — partially reversing an earlier business decision — said it will now allow teams limited permission to seek blockchain sponsorships.

In a March 22 memo obtained by CNBC, the NFL said it made the decision to allow “promotional relationships without undertaking excessive regulator or brand risk” after it completed an evaluation of the technology. The permissions, which are subject to the NFL’s approval, exclude stadium signage. For now, restrictions remain in place concerning specific cryptocurrencies and fan tokens, which can be exchanged for merchandise and experiences, per the memo. 

“Clubs will continue to be prohibited from directly promoting cryptocurrency,” the memo reads, according to CNBC.

Toby Gilbert, CEO of Coinweb, told GOBankingRates that the recent decision by the NFL to allow for limited blockchain sponsorships is just the latest example of a continued mainstreaming of blockchain technology — and cryptocurrencies — in the U.S. and North America more broadly. 

“Advertisers, professional sports leagues, and the larger entertainment industry are playing catch-up with the rest of the world in this regard, and they risk missing out on tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in added revenue if they don’t keep pace,” Gilbert said.

“It is laughable that so many — including the NFL — are still taking a piecemeal approach to providing blockchain and crypto companies with a voice on their platforms when they have long embraced industries such as alcohol and gambling, but it is a welcome sign nonetheless.”

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On the flip side, the crypto space hasn’t been shy about increasingly courting the sports industry in recent months, a phenomenon which was particularly notable during the Super Bowl. 

Take for example crypto exchange FTX, which not only made its Big Game debut, but also gave away a large amount of Bitcoin as an added viewer incentive. This is not FTX’s first foray into the sports industry: In June of 2021 the company struck a $135 million deal to rename the Miami Heat’s stadium the FTX Arena. — which bought the (former) Staples Arena naming rights in Nov. 2021 for $700 million, also ran its first Super Bowl ad. 

And last April, newly-non-retired NFL icon Tom Brady also jumped on the NFT bandwagon, launching an NFT platform, Autograph, alongside an array of big names from the sports and entertainment industries, as GOBankingRates previously reported. 

Mark Elenowitz, co-founder of Upstream, told GOBankingRates the fact that one of the most prominent sports leagues and entertainment bodies in the world is embracing this critical technological innovation is the latest sign that authorities around the world are going to have to develop common-sense regulation when it comes to crypto. 

“NFTs specifically have tremendous use for everyday people, businesses, and influencers, when not deemed to be a security. Regulation is important when it applies to investor protections around trading, retail investors and speculation but fan based NFTs shouldn’t be overlooked or regulated into the ground,” he said.

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“They are growing in cultural significance, both in the United States and abroad. This innovation should be fostered and encouraged by government bodies around the world.”

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