- Crypto services firm FTX is the new naming sponsor of the home arena of the Miami Heat pending approval by the NBA.
- With the NBA doing more with crypto/blockchain tech than any other US sports league there’s every reason to think they’ll approve the FTX bid.
- More crypto firms are finding a promotional presence in the mainstream sports ecosystem.
There’s some deeper economic symbolism in the fact that the Miami Heat’s arena will change from the American Airlines Arena to the FTX Arena. At the moment, I’m not sure what it is. The big story is that crypto derivatives/exchange firm FTX has been approved as the new naming sponsor of the Miami Heat’s arena by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. The FTX deal is worth $135 million over 19 years. It will be the first crypto industry branding deal for a major US sports arena.
The NBA also has to sign off on the deal but given their success in the crypto space that should be a fairly routine process. The NBA has done better in the crypto currency space than any other professional sports organization in North America with the NBA Top Shot NFT platform having become a massive hit. The North American professional sports industry has become far more receptive to crypto related sponsorships over the past year. Earlier this month, the UFC signed a deal with Latin America/Asia facing crypto based sportsbook Stake.com. Also, the Montreal Canadiens announced a branding partnership with crypto services company Crypto.com. North America still lags behind Europe in assimilating new financial technologies on many levels–including their sports ecosystems.
Miami could be a catalyst for change in all of this. Mayor Francis Suarez wants to make his city a hub of finance and technology with a specific focus on cryptocurrency. He spoke in detail about his plans in a CNBC interview last month:
The mainstream financial media had to take the opportunity to denigrate crypto though they didn’t do a very good job at it. The CNBC report on the naming rights made an oblique suggestion that FTX was sketchy with the article subtitle “The company now joins a long, and sometimes checkered, history of firms with stadium naming rights.” The article talked about how some naming rights become synonymous with their team and stadium–they mentioned the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium and the LA Lakers’ Staple Center though the best example might be Chicago’s United Center which is forever linked with the Bulls’ decade of domination in the Michael Jordan era. They then came up with some examples of the ‘checkered past’ of naming rights and oddly enough the most egregious had a decidedly analog era bent:
For other companies, however, the naming rights served as billboards that reminded audiences of their struggles. Sports Authority had to bail on its sponsorship of the NFL’s Broncos stadium after it went bankrupt in 2016.
Enron famously had the rights to the MLB’s Houston Astros stadium before an accounting scandal brought down the company. And in Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy’s branding is still on the basketball arena for the NBA’s Thunder, even after the company filed for bankruptcy protection last year.
The dot-com era two decades ago provides even more fodder for naming rights gone wrong. Tech company CMGI was the original sponsor of what would become Gillette Stadium, but had to scale back that agreement after its stock tanked, according to a CNN report at the time. Now-defunct companies Adelphia and PSINet also had NFL stadium naming rights near the turn of the century.
The New York Times–which is so deep into self parody now that you think they *have* to be in on the joke–was even more derisive in an article talking about the renaming and Miami’s attempts to woo the crypto industry. The only context they gave about FTX and CEO Samuel Bankman-Fried was that he was ‘one of the biggest donors to President Biden’s campaign‘ and the overall tone of the piece was that Miami Mayor Suarez was downright unhinged in wanting to attract tech/crypto investment concluding with this parting cap gun shot across the crypto bow:
Ultimately, the success of the mayor’s effort won’t be apparent until it’s clear that people are making their moves permanent and maintaining their enthusiasm for crypto if — or when? — there is another market downturn.
The Times has been desperately trying to downplay the fact that businesses–along with high net worth individuals–have been abandoning the city in droves. You think they’d notice all of the empty office space in Manhattan but they’re generally pretty dense.