UConn Star Paige Bueckers Announces Deal With Cash App, Her Third Major NIL Partnership

University of Connecticut basketball star Paige Beuckers announced a new partnership Monday that’s sure to add to her buckets of cash off the court.

The reigning Naismith College Player of the Year is partnering with Cash App, the mobile payment service owned by Jack Dorsey’s Block (formerly Square), to help launch the Paige Bueckers Foundation. Although specific details have yet to be released, the foundation will broadly focus on creating opportunities for children and families and promoting social justice. Cash App plans to endow an initial $100,000 Bitcoin donation, in addition to $100,000 in cash that will be given away to fans in $15 payments to promote the announcement. Other financial terms were not disclosed, but Forbes estimates that Bueckers is still a few deals away from hitting the $1 million mark in endorsements.

“I know this deal isn’t like a super long-term contract,” Bueckers tells Forbes. “But I’m working with people and want to work with people who have the same values as me.”

This marks Bueckers’ third major partnership since the NCAA stripped down its regulations in July, allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. She signed with global e-commerce platform StockX in October and, one month later, became the first college athlete to join Gatorade’s ranks. In July, Bueckers trademarked the phrase “Paige Buckets,” which is the point guard’s nickname. 

How Bueckers fares in the nascent NIL market could offer a glimpse of the opportunities emerging for the top tier of college athletes. Based on her sprawling social media presence—Bueckers has more than one million followers between Twitter and Instagram—a study from research outlet AthleticDirectorU named her the most marketable athlete in college sports prior to the NCAA’s rule change.

“She is the best of the best, and these major brands want to leverage her appeal, particularly to a young and growing demographic,” Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business associate professor Tim Derdenger wrote in an email. “Her success will certainly spill over to other players.”

It already has. Last month, Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren signed a deal with Topps that the company said was its largest with a college athlete to date. Fresno State basketball players and TikTok stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder recently cofounded a streetwear clothing company in addition to striking partnerships with Boost Mobile, Champs, Eastbay and WWE. 

The addition of Bueckers rounds out an impressive roster for Cash App, which has signed up a handful of high-profile athletes in the last few months. In November, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers announced they were partnering with Cash App and taking part of their salaries in Bitcoin. Golden State Warriors stars Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala said they would be doing the same in January. As cryptocurrency becomes a hot topic among athlete investors, at least ten North American-based professional athletes have taken part of their salaries or endorsement payments in some form of crypto.

“Obviously, I’m still learning a lot about it and trying to understand,” Bueckers says. “I just started understanding what to do with my tax money, so now I have to learn what to do with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.”

A native of Hopkins, Minnesota, Bueckers arrived at UConn in 2020 as the top-ranked recruit in the United States and the 2019-20 Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year. She collected a string of awards during her freshman season and led the heavily favored Huskies to the Final Four, where they were upset by the University of Arizona. Bueckers picked up where she left off during her sophomore campaign before suffering a fracture in her left knee, which has sidelined her for the last two months. She hopes to return at the end of February.

As she adds to her sponsorship portfolio, Bueckers plans to continue to use her platform to advocate for racial equity. At the 2021 ESPYs, where she won the award for best college athlete in women’s sports, Bueckers used her speech to honor and celebrate Black women. She’s adamant about including BIPOC creatives in anything she does. “I grew up with everything, a roof over my head and food on my plate,” she says. “I want to help younger kids that weren’t as fortunate as me.”

This is likely just the start.

“The current set of offers is just the tip of the iceberg,” Derdenger says. “She has a lucrative future ahead of her.”


Tagged : / / / / /

Serena Williams Joins Sorare To Help $4.3 Billion Blockchain Firm Conquer US Sports, Women’s Leagues

Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, is joining the $4.3 billion blockchain-based fantasy soccer game Sorare as a board advisor. In September 2021, the Parisian soccer fantasy company received the fifth largest ever funding round in the crypto industry, hauling in $680 million in cash at a $4.3 billion valuation.

Sorare is a fantasy soccer game that runs on the Ethereum blockchain. It allows users to buy NFTs of famous soccer players such as PSG’s Lionel Messi or Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, field them in fantasy leagues, and trade them with other users.

By the end of December 2021, Sorare had 1 million registered users, of whom 270,000 were active monthly, and 90,000 had purchased in-game NFTs using fiat or cryptocurrency to unlock more functionality (beginning leagues are free). Founded in 2018, Sorare’s trading volume ballooned from $7 million in 2020 to $325 million in 2021. In November, Bonhams auctioning house in London sold a Sorare NFT card of Cristiano Ronaldo for $400,313. 

For the France-based Sorare, Williams’ appointment coincides with a planned push into the North American market – with a specific focus on women’s sports. For now, Sorare has IP licence deals with 230 men’s soccer clubs and leagues, including Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Japan’s J League, North America’s MLS, and Juventus, Italy’s record champions. 

In 2022, the company plans to add at least two American sports and two women’s sports leagues. Sorare CEO Nicolas Julia told Forbes that the timing is perfect to bring on an athlete of Williams’ stature. “When you have the ambition to build the biggest entertainment group in the world of sports, and you have the opportunity to partner with one of the greatest athletes in history, you want that perspective.” 


At Sorare, the 40-year old athlete and financier will advise a board featuring SoftBank CEO Marcelo Claure, who owns Spain’s second division side Girona FC and sits on the board of WeWork and T-Mobile, as well as German fintech investor Christian Miele, Benchmark’s Peter Fanton (famous for his early investments in Twitter and Uber UBER ), and Sorare’s CEO Nicolas Julia and COO Ryan Spoon. 

For Williams, Sorare falls within the sweet spot between her interest in crypto and sports. In addition to her board role, she made a personal investment in Sorare, she told Forbes, rather than investing through Serena Ventures, her own venture capital firm. She did not want to disclose the sum. 

“I actually was introduced to Sorare through my husband,” said Williams about Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, who also runs the venture capital firm Seven Seven Six, and invested in Sorare as part of its $50 million series A round in February 2021. Speaking of her motivation, Williams added: “Sorare does more than just collectibles. They deliver meaningful interactions between users and their favorite teams or players, which I thought was different.”

The tennis player laughed and said “I pushed [Sorare CEO] Nicolas for tennis since the day I met him.” Recently, the Australian Open made headlines through a partnership with metaverse platform Decentraland, creating a virtual replication of the tournament grounds for fans to explore. Williams said she sees a great range of future crypto applications for tennis and appreciates that Sorare takes multiple approaches, which include gamification and NFTs. 

 ​​”When we think of web3 and we think of crypto: that’s going to be the biggest space for the next several years in terms of growth,” Williams said. 

In 2014, the 23-time Grand Slam winner quietly launched her own venture capital firm, only revealing five years later in an April 2019 Instagram post that she had founded Serena Ventures. “Yes, I know I can keep a secret,” the tennis star wrote on Instagram. 

Today, Serena Ventures has invested in 50+ early stage start-ups with a portfolio market cap of $33 billion. “When I’m talking about Serena Ventures, we invest in women, we invest in people of color, that’s our thing,” Williams told Forbes. “68% or 70% of our portfolio are companies founded by women or people of color.” 

In 2021, Serena Ventures funded multiple crypto companies. In March, SV invested in a pre-series A round for Lolli, an e-commerce site that gives customers rewards in bitcoin for their purchases. In April, SV participated in a $19 million series A round for Bitski, an NFT marketplace, alongside rapper Jay-Z and Andreessen Horowitz, perhaps the world’s best known VC firm. 

And in December, Crypto.com, a cryptocurrency exchange, signed on as the founding sponsor of Angel City FC, a women’s soccer club founded by Serena Williams and fellow celebrities Natalie Portman, Abby Wambach, Julie Uhrman and Ohanian, her husband. 

Meanwhile, Williams remains committed to furthering the role of women and people of color in crypto-related industries including decentralized finance (DeFi), NFTs, web3 and the metaverse. 

Williams told Forbes that she also holds many NFTs by female artists – and plans to reveal one in a tweet soon. 

“As web3 and crypto continue to grow, everyone’s trying to figure out how to make the experience more diverse and inclusive – and everyone is trying to get involved,” she said.

At the 2021 Met Gala in New York, Ohanian wore a lapel pin of a Serena-lookalike CryptoPunks NFT – part of the world’s original avatar art NFT project launched in 2017. 

Sporting a tennis-like headband to boot, Ohanian purchased the avatar for 85 ETH – $263,000 at today’s exchange rates – as a gift to his wife. 

On January 5, 2022, Serena changed her Twitter profile picture to the very same CryptoPunk #2950 and tweeted “gm” – an abbreviation of “good morning” –  friendly lingo among crypto enthusiasts.


Tagged : / / / / /

The Australian Open Swings Into The Metaverse, Will It Be An Ace?

The Australian Open (“AO”) is one of the year’s premier professional tennis events with a global viewership of nearly one billion viewers. This year, in partnership with Tennis Australia and Decentraland, the Australian Open is fully immersing itself in the world of NFTs and the metaverse.

“We had over 812,000 people attend AO2020 – which was a record year for us. Numbers were understandably down in 2021, however we’re seeing fantastic ticket sales in the lead up to AO2022. We’re certainly seeing a drive from Melbournians to return to live sport and we can’t wait to see hundreds of thousands of people back in the precinct enjoying the AO’s festival of sport and entertainment,” said Cedric Cornelis, Tennis Australia Chief Commercial Officer

Metaverses such as Decentraland and Sandbox are virtual worlds where users can own, develop, and interact with digital land through their VR headsets or internet browsers. These crypto and NFT-enabled digital universes are increasing global user engagement by hosting high profile events and experiences. In October, Decentraland hosted the popular Metaverse Festival with musical guests and appearances from Deadmau5, 3LAU, and Paris Hilton.

AO Decentraland follows in these footsteps and will be the first major sporting event hosted in the metaverse. Fans will be able to login to Decentraland and explore a virtual recreation of the AO grounds for the duration of the tournament, which begins Monday January 17th and lasts a fortnight. They will be able to discover the precinct, complete challenges, view historic AO content, and interact with players and other fans, all from their laptops.  


“We view ourselves as an entertainment service first and foremost” said Ridley Plummer, Metaverse and NFT Project Lead at Tennis Australia. “We have revamped the direction of the AO over the last five years. In addition to watching tennis, people come to the AO because they want to eat great food, shop, have drinks with friends, and listen to live music. It has become a festival of entertainment. The natural progression of this in-real-life experience is to recreate it in the metaverse as well, enabling fans to have an even better experience than what they can get onsite.”

AO Art Ball NFT Collection

Additionally, on January 12th, the Australian Open is launching the AO Art Ball NFT collection, comprising 6,776 unique NFTs. The NFT collection implements generative art through the use of an algorithmic combination of different color schemes, patterns and textures, ensuring each AO Art Ball NFT is unique in appearance, down to the fuzz on the ball.

Most interestingly, each Art Ball NFT’s metadata will be linked to a 19-centimeter by 19-centimeter plot of each tennis court surface. If the winning shot from any of the 400 professional matches lands on that plot, the NFT metadata will be updated in real-time to highlight the match information (e.g. match players, round of tournament, match score, and more). When one of the 11 championship points lands on a plot, the corresponding NFT owner can claim and receive the championship point tennis ball from the match in a handcrafted case.  

“At the Australian Open, we have the constant willingness to push the boundaries of what a sporting event should be, striving to innovate, expand our existing channels, and increase accessibility of the event to more fans in an engaging way,” commented Cedric. “The metaverse will be of interest to fans who are not engaged in sports but may have other interests, providing an opportunity to diversify beyond the sport of tennis into the realm of tech and innovation.”

The collaboration is an early experiment in how sporting data can be directly integrated into NFTs, while providing a truly immersive experience in the metaverse. This inaugural NFT drop will be followed by other giveaways, NFT drops, events, and merchandising opportunities. The team views this first step as a crucial piece of its larger Web3 strategy in which fans will own various components of a new digitally-native tennis community.  

Decentraland has signaled a long-term commitment to working with Tennis Australia and the Australian Open. Decentraland’s Head of Partnerships Adam De Cata said, “Beyond this first NFT drop and metaverse event, we will continue to build digital community around the Australian Open. This genesis collection may serve as a whitelist for future NFTs and experiences. Tennis Australia and the Australian Open are providing an incredible array of resources, assets, and data. Together we are exploring the unknown, and the playbook is actively being written.”


Tagged : / / / / /

Drone Racing League Launches Play-To-Earn Crypto Game On Algorand Blockchain

Picture yourself playing Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road race using the traditional Nintendo console. But you’re not on your living room couch, you’re in a futuristic city at night. The sky is lit up in neon lights: not from fireworks or tall buildings, but from bubblegum-colored drones whizzing around above you. Basically, you’re Harrison Ford in the 1982 Blade Runner blockbuster.

For the 12 professional drone pilots who competed in the Drone Racing League’s Christmas Day 2021 competition, that was their real-life experience. The 12 competitors, all male, mostly between 18 and 30 years old, were cheered by thousands of live spectators in Las Vegas, streamed by 20 million fans over Twitter, and watched by many more on NBC, the TV rights holders for DRL, currently in its sixth annual season. 

Among the league’s stars is a former fighter pilot, a firefighter, and serial winner Alex Vanover, 21, a Texan videographer who was a producer on several Justin Bieber music videos. 

“It’s nothing like traditional stick-and-balls sports. We are powered by technology. Our race courses are like a real world video game come to life,” said Rachel Jacobson, DRL’s global president, who previously worked for a “stick-and-ball-sport,” the National Basketball Association. 

The “powered by technology” part of the Drone Race League is now going crypto, too. DRL today announced a partnership with Algorand, an open-source blockchain, to release a virtual version of the Drone Race League. The cryptocurrency required to use Algorand, called ALGO, is currently valued at $1.73.

The new game, which could bring DRL to a nascent virtual reality version of the internet, known as the  metaverse, is bankrolled in part by New York-based Hivemind Capital Partners, a $1.5 billion crypto investment fund launched in November 2021 by Matt Zhang, a former Citi executive on Wall Street. 


The goal is to onboard new fans with play-to-earn incentives such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that can be used in-game – or traded on markets outside the game. In the case of DRL, the play-to-earn digital assets to be won online might include digital racing drones, or a new pair of digital clothes, for example. 

In traditional video games like Electronic Arts’ soccer game FIFA, for example, a digital asset – such as a Lionel Messi player card purchased in FIFA 19 – can not be carried over to FIFA 20, or any future iterations of that product. Traditional video games are controlled by a centralised entity, usually the game’s developers, and are native to that company. As a result,you could not use your FIFA 19 Messi player card outside that Electronic Arts-owned product. 

In the case of DRL’s drone racing game on the Algorand blockchain, the crypto-based, play-to-earn assets could, theoretically at least, be transported out-game through the metaverse, or traded for cryptocurrencies, including Algorand’s own ALGO token, on secondary marketplaces.  

Just like other competitors like Solana or Cardano, Algorand intends to displace Ethereum as the primary blockchain home for the decentralized apps (dApps), DeFI projects, and crypto-native games of the future (or, in crypto-speak, the metaverse). 

In recent months, environmentally friendlier cryptocurrencies that use a proof-of-stake model have fared better than their proof-of-work (i.e. mining) rivals. In the past six months, for example, Solana added $46.4 billion in market cap, climbing past 9 rival cryptocurrencies to land at #5 overall, while Dogecoin, which is mined just like Bitcoin, lost $1.3 billion and dropped eight places. 

Designed from the ground up to use less energy than ethereum (another PoW network) during the consensus process, Algorand’s environmental footprint, or lack thereof, could turn out to be a selling point for Drone Racing League’s Gen-Z target audience. The blockchain claims it is  “carbon-negative,” because it operates as a pure proof-of-stake (PoS) network.

 Algorand’s ALGO token, ranked at #20 on Forbes’ list of most influential digital assets, has the 18th highest market cap of any cryptocurrency, currently hovering around $ 11 billion. Whereas the world’s two largest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, are proof-of-work (PoW) networks, Algorand operates as a pure proof-of-stake (PoS) network, making it much more energy-efficient. 

The PoW system, also known as mining, has come under increasing pressure from environmentalists and regulatory bodies in 2021. According to the Cambridge University Bitcoin Electricity Cosumption Index, the 123.02 terawatt-hours (TW/h) worth electrical energy used consumed annually by Bitcoin miners is equal to the total energy consumed in Argentina, Colombia, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine per year. 

As for the analog, real-life drone racing competition happening in Las Vegas: it might come to a sky near you very soon. Munich, Germany’s BMW World, France’s Riviera, Arizona’s Chase Field, Miami’s Hard Rock stadium, Los Angeles’ Skate Park – and even the kingdom of Saudi Arabia – have hosted past races.   

Launched in 2015, DRL now has 12 global TV partners, streaming races to 75 million fans in 140 countries. In 2021, the league’s TikTok channel grew threefold to 2 million followers. Rachel Jabson, DRL’s global president, says making the competition more diverse – and, ideally, female – is a priority for the company. Competitors include DroneRacing MultiGP, based in Florida, the Federation Aeronautique International’s Drone Sports League (Switzerland), and the Drone Champions League (Liechtenstein and Germany).

As more drone hobbyists get their hands on the hardware, an increased number of piloting talents could fly towards DLR.

The global drone market, valued at $9.5 billion in 2020, is expected to expand at an annual growth rate of 25% and reach $92 billion by 2030, according to ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm from New York. 

ABI forecasts that 70% ($63 billion) of this revenue will be in the commercial sector, so outside of drone applications in military, police or public surveillance use. 

Whether the new crop of young drone pilots prefers the tokenized, metaverse version of DRL, or the real-life event under nightlit skies, remains to be seen.


Tagged : / / / / / /

DraftKings Signs Deal With NFL Players’ Association As ‘Old Guard’ Gaming Companies Jump Aboard NFT Hype Train

On Tuesday the $12 billion Boston-based sports betting company DraftKings announced a partnership with the NFL Players’ Association. The licensing deal grants DraftKings the rights to the intellectual property (IP) of all 2000+ NFL players active today, with the opportunity to gamify digital player cards in a new blockchain product. Put simply, this arrangement could lay the groundwork for a fantasy football league where users can buy, trade and play NFTs of global stars like Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, as soon as next season.

“We have seen what has happened in the blockchain and crypto space in the past nine to twelve months, and how quickly it’s moving,” Beth Beiriger, DraftKings’ senior vice president of marketplace operations, told Forbes. “We’re a tech company. This partnership with the NFLPA will allow us to bring incredible IP into this new emerging technology.”

Still, in a discussion with Forbes, Sean Sansiveri, general counsel and head of business at the NFL Players’ Association, avoided being pinned down to a timeline for when DraftKings’ new products or games may be launched in the blockchain arena.

However, the IP deal between the firm and the NFL PA could bring current NFL players’ image and likeness to a blockchain-based fantasy sports product as early as next year, the 2022-23 NFL season. 


The company is building on the foundation of early returns made from DraftKings Marketplace, an online shop for sports NFTs (non-fungible tokens), launched in August 2021. Working with Polygon Studios, a gaming and NFT software developer that builds layer 2 products on top of the Ethereum blockchain, DraftKings launched the museum-like marketplace where users can buy digital sports memorabilia assets, such as exclusive video content of Simone Biles, the world class Olympic gymnast. 

Existing DraftKings users can use their existing DraftKings wallet to buy NFTs in fiat currency on the mobile app or on the Desktop version. With this new partnership, DraftKings hopes to further its growing consumer base, which its 2020 earnings report reported to be 1.1 million monthly unique paying users, almost 300% more than the 295,000 it had in 2019. Monthly revenue per user also grew 27% to $80 in the same time frame. 

Despite this growth DraftKings will still need to succeed in a tightening industry with a clear market leader.  Allowing fans to pay for NFTs in US dollars is a mode of mass adaptation first employed by Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Topshots, a digital-native product of on-chain video moments of real basketball scenes. On NBA Topshots, users unpack virtual packets of video moments from NBA games, like a  James Harden assist for Kevin Durant, or a Lebron James dunk for the Lakers.

By the end of Q2 of 2021, NBA Topshots had 800,000 registered users and monthly sales of $232 million, a Dapper Labs representative told Insider.  The firm also recently announced a deal with Spain’s La Liga to bring similar video moment NFTs to fans of the European soccer league.

According to Beringer other competitors include OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace, home to famous collections like CryptoPunks or the Bored Ape Yacht Club. She added that blockchain start-ups like Axie Infinity, Sorare and ZED Run are also early adapters of fantasy sports and NFT collectibles with sports game utility. 

Another rival who could make a blockchain fantasy sports play in 2022 is Fanatics, the sports merchandise company. Rapper-turned-investor Jay-Z, the MLB and SoftBank were all investors in Fanatics’ August 2021 funding round, which valued Fanatics at $18 billion. When Major League Baseball’s existing IP deal for player cards and collectibles expires with Panini and Topps in 2022, Fanatics will have exclusive rights to the image and likeness of MLB players.

Finally, traditional gaming giants and betting companies are eager to compete. In an early November earnings call, EA’ CEO Andrew Wilson, whose company has video game licensing deals with the world soccer association FIFA, the NFL, NBA, NHL and Formula One, called the crypto gaming space “the future of our industry.” Wilson highlighted the potential for NFTs that can be purchased or earned within games.


Tagged : / / / /

Crypto Branding Battle Heats Up As FTX And Crypto.com Ink Deals With Ohtani And Staples Center

Goodbye, Staples; hello, Crypto.

Anschutz Entertainment Group announced today that it will rename the Staples Center—the Downtown Los Angeles home of the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sparks—as Crypto.com Arena. The new deal, which takes effect December 25, ends a 22-year partnership with the office-supply retailer in favor of a 20-year deal with the cryptocurrency exchange.

“We’re very excited about partnering with AEG and investing long term in this city, starting with Crypto.com Arena in the heart of downtown, and using our platform in new and creative ways so that cryptocurrency can power the future of world-class sports, entertainment and technology for fans in LA and around the world,” Crypto.com cofounder and CEO Kris Marszalek said in a press release.

The deal came just over 12 hours after another LA icon, Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani, signed his own partnership with crypto exchange FTX. Financial terms for both agreements were not disclosed. However, the Los Angeles Times and Axios report the total value of the Crypto.com deal could exceed $700 million.

The two pacts are the latest in a string of pricey agreements the two rivals have made at a combined cost of some $760 million, money that teams and leagues are eager to take as they try to recoup pandemic-driven revenue losses.

“I think it’s happening everywhere—more and more people are getting interested in crypto,” FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, the richest self-made newcomer in Forbes 400 history, wrote in an April email to Forbes. “But athletes are high profile and among the easiest to see.”

Bankman-Fried, the son of two Stanford Law professors and a graduate of MIT, first jumped into crypto in late 2017 after spotting a lucrative arbitrage opportunity. Two years later, he founded FTX in Hong Kong, and he eventually moved the headquarters to the Bahamas. The company has since become a leading exchange for buying and selling crypto derivatives. Marszalek founded crypto payment platform Monaco in 2016, before its rebranding as Crypto.com in 2018. The Singapore-based company boasts more than 10 million customers today.

In the past year, FTX has dropped at least $360 million on naming rights and endorsement deals, including this week’s signing of Ohtani, who multiple outlets report will be paid in cryptocurrency. It also has deals with Tom Brady and Stephen Curry as brand ambassadors, reportedly giving all three equity in the business. Additionally, FTX has naming rights deals with the Miami Heat, the UC Berkeley football team and esports organization TSM. Crypto.com has spent at least $400 million to land partnerships with the Philadelphia 76ers, Paris Saint-Germain, the Montreal Canadiens, esports team Fnatic, Major League Baseball, UFC, Formula 1, Serie A and the Twitch Rivals tournament, according to Forbes estimates.

And they’re not alone. Coinbase agreed to become the exclusive cryptocurrency platform partner of the NBA in October at an undisclosed price. Algorand, another platform, dropped $100 million on a five-year sponsorship of the Drone Racing League in September, according to CNBC.

“There’s a wide world out there,” Bankman-Fried told Forbes in October. “We shouldn’t think that crypto is going to be the most fertile ground to work in forever.”


Tagged : / / / / /

In ‘Arms Race’ For Mass Adoption, Crypto Companies Ink Sports Sponsorships Worth Hundreds Of Millions

As cryptocurrency companies seek to reach mainstream audiences, some platforms are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor sports teams, stadiums and even leagues in a bid to woo new fans.

On Sept. 22, Crypto.com struck an eight-figure deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to sponsor the jersey patch and have visibility in the arena. The crypto trading app will also work with team management to develop non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and create a way for fans to use cryptocurrency to pay for tickets and other products. The Hong Kong-based company will also show up elsewhere alongside the NBA franchise—including on TV broadcasts and various other digital platforms.

Crypto.com Chief Marketing Officer Steven Kalifowitz recognizes that in order to build the brand, he has to also educate consumers about this new asset class.

“Crypto is not just another shoe,” he says. “It’s not a commodity thing or a suitcase or something. Getting into crypto is very much a cultural thing.”

Flush with money from eager investors, a growing number of crypto brands are spending big to reach a mass audience through sports sponsorships and mainstream events. Other deals this month include the cryptofinance company XBTO sponsoring the Major League Soccer team Inter Miami, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX sponsoring Mercedes-AMG’s Formula 1 team and the nonprofit Learncrypto.com sponsoring the English Premier League team, Southampton F.C.

Perhaps sports arenas are not a bad way to go when it comes to finding new fans for a new—and still largely unregulated—asset class that some critics dismiss as gambling and proponents say is the future of the internet as well as the economy. And in a fast-growing and cluttered market, the fight is to get not just recognition but market share.


“To me it looks like an arms race for user acquisition,” says Keith Soljacich, VP/GD of Experiential Tech at Digitas, a leading digital advertising agency. “It’s kind of like if you have a crypto wallet on a platform, it’s a lot like holding a Visa card, too.”

The 76ers deal is just one of many that Crypto.com has landed in the past year while it’s on an aggressive sponsorship spree totaling more than $400 million in deals. Earlier this month, the company became the first official crypto platform partner for the famous French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain. Crypto.com is also a sponsor of a wide range of teams including the NHL’s Montreal Canadians, Fox Sports’ college football midday coverage, UFC, and Aston Martin’s Formula One team—just to name a few. Each of these also includes various other integrations far beyond a logo.

The 76ers have been looking for a new jersey patch partner for a couple of years and spoken with hundreds of companies, according to Chris Heck, the team’s president of business operations. He said the jersey patch is the most important partnership a team has, which requires brands and teams to be “completely aligned.”

“As the world woke up to the crypto space a little over a year ago, we got a chance to venture down that road,” Heck says. “Think about it this way: Sports are entering into the crypto era world, and we get to the at the front of the line with Crypto.com. These are folks that are partnering with gold-standard brands like UFC, F1, PSG, and we get to be their brand and their of choice in the United States with major sports teams and that’s pretty cool.”

All this to go beyond the current crypto user base to reach the masses: A study Crypto.com conducted in July found that total global crypto users have doubled year-over-year from 106 million to 221 million. However, just a fraction of those are currently the company’s customers.

Earlier in September, FTX—a two-year-old startup also based in Hong Kong—announced a $20 million ad campaign starring football legend Tom Brady and his wife, the model and businesswoman Gisele Bündchen. And like Crypto.com, FTX is sponsoring a wide range of teams and leagues in rapid succession including a five-year deal with the Major League Baseball announced this summer.

“If we just stop at one deal and we’ll wait and see how it does and wait to see how that does before doing another one, the best opportunities might be gone,” says FTX.US President Brett Harrison. 

According to Harrison, FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried asked for ideas of how do something “that’s big.” Someone then came up with the idea to buy the naming rights for a stadium, and a few months later they won the rights to rename the Miami Heat’s arena FTX Arena in a $135 million deal approved in March.

“There is a group of tech companies that know it in their bones that if they don’t become brands quickly, there is a time in the future where there will be just a few left,” says Jamie Shuttlesworth, chief strategy officer of Dentsu Americas, which became FTX’s agency of record in June.

Traditional advertising methods are important for building trust in crypto brands, according to Harrison—especially since it deals with something like taking care of people’s money.

“When’s the last time you saw an ad for maybe a bank pop up on the top of your Google search and said, ‘Time to move all my money from my Chase account or Citi account?’”

Major stadium and team sponsorship are often named after brands that are already well known, but the crypto sector’s aggressive land-grab feels in some ways like people playing a game of “Risk” or “Monopoly” where people can either wait for the right properties or buy everything they can as fast as possible.

When asked about the Monopoly metaphor, Harrison joked that “we’re trying plant our pieces on as many Park Places as possible.”

There’s plenty incentive for sports organizations to team up with crypto companies. Mike Proulx, a Forester analyst and marketing expert, said many sports leagues want—and need—to attract the next generation of fans. 

“These kinds of deals look to tap into crypto companies’ young skewing userbase with NFTs that are, in a way, a modern/virtual take on old school baseball cards,” he says. “And the benefit to crypto companies is, of course, getting to leverage the league IP that legitimizes their platform with trusted brands while also growing their users.”

The crypto industry has exhausted its original market, says to R.A. Farrokhnia, a professor at Columbia Business School professor and Executive Director of the Columbia Fintech Initiative. However, blockchain technology isn’t something that’s easily explained to the average person—it involves cryptography, complex networks, and other concepts—and also still aren’t to a point where users can easily navigate.

According to Farrokhnia, there are still questions about whether the foundations and interfaces are advanced enough to warrant the aggressive push toward mass adoption. Or, he asks, “are we putting the proverbial cart before the horse?”

“These are all the moving parts in this ecosystem and it seems the pace for innovation has accelerated,” he said. “But are we doing things in the right sequence?”

Farrokhnia also points out the irony that despite all of cryptocurrency’s new innovations, the companies are still using classic marketing models. However, he adds that little for athletes to market unregulated digital economies than to pitch things like CPG products or other brand categories. 

“What kind of reputation risk could this have for teams or sports figures or influencers or actors who are engaging in this kind of marketing campaign or activity? Most likely they have good lawyers that would protect them against such things, but you never know.”


Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / /

Blockchain’s Biggest Businesses: Forbes Blockchain 50 Call For 2022 Nominations

Over the first three years of the Forbes Blockchain 50, our list of billion-dollar companies making meaningful use of the technology popularized by bitcoin, has become a bellwether of institutional adoption. Our list shines light on how large corporations—often household names like Walmart and Novartis— are using blockchain tech to improve business processes and become more efficient and profitable. Now is your chance to help us find the best possible honorees for next year.

Each year’s list, which requires that members be valued at $1 billion or more, or generate $1 billion in revenue, has demonstrated the technology’s wide and growing geographic and industry reach. Over time, it has shifted from a focus on early stage proof of concept projects to functioning technology with giant transaction volumes. And it has increasingly featured consumer-facing companies, rather than only B2B players.

In other words, the distributed ledger technology that lets a group of users agree on a single truth, and prove that a digital object is only in one place at a time, is actually being used. And it’s not only being used by nimble startups with little to lose, but also by generations-old enterprises with some of the best known and trusted names in the world: Fidelity, Honeywell, Visa and the NBA.

Forbes Blockchain 50 – Inside The Class Of 2021

With the rapid rise of bitcoin, which this year reached an all time high of $64,000, the number of companies aiming to capitalize on the original digital asset has surged. What began with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which made the first list in 2019 when bitcoin was only worth $5,000 and went public this year with an $86 billion direct listing, has expanded to include companies such as business analytics firm MicroStrategy, which essentially turned itself into bitcoin ETF by holding more than $5 billion worth of bitcoin. 

“There is going to be more change in the next 5 years than we have seen in the last 30 years in the financial system,” said Dan Schulman, the CEO of Blockchain 50 lister, PayPal, speaking at last year’s Blockchain 50 Symposium. “And I think digital currencies are going to lead the way.”

Know a company whose blockchain innovation is under-appreciated? Let us know now, and help us spread the word using #Blockchain50 on Twitter. Has your company been overlooked in the past, or fallen off the list, but is breaking new ground by making real strides with blockchain? Let us know how. Do you work at one of the nine firms that has been on the list all three years, and is still leading the way? We want to know what the company is doing that merits it remaining on the list.

The nomination deadline is Friday, November 5. Once the nomination period ends, a team of Forbes reporters and editors will sort through the nominees, looking for the most mature blockchain programs run by the most talented teams in the world. Winners will be revealed in a 2022 magazine issue, and online.


Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

NFTs Of Cartoon Apes Sell For Over $24 Million In Sotheby’s Auction


A set of 101 non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, from the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” collection, which features images of various cartoon apes, sold for $24.4 million in an online sale at Sotheby’s auction house on Thursday, wildly surpassing estimates and offering further proof that the market for NFTs is surging once again.

Key Facts

The Bored Ape Yacht Club is a set of collectible NFTs representing 10,000 cartoon apes, each with unique arrangements of accessories (such as eye patches, necklaces, and earrings) and different colored fur.

In addition to the 101 NFT’s, the winner is granted the ability to generate six new Mutant Ape NFT using one of the NFTs in the collection, as the lot includes three M1 and three M2 “Mutant serums.”

According to the NFT-focused website, Decrypt.co, “If a Bored Ape is injected with an M1 or M2 serum, the resulting Mutant Ape retains traits of the original ape,” thereby increasing value of the new NFT.

The final sale price of the lot greatly exceeded Sotheby’s presale estimate, which the auction house set at between $12 and $18 million. 

Sotheby’s accepts payments in the cryptocurrencies bitcoin, ether and USDC, as well as fiat currency.

Sotheby’s sold a second lot, featuring 101 NFTs from the Bored Ape Kennel Club collection (NFTs that feature images of dogs) for $1.8 million on Thursday.

Key Background:

Yuga Labs, which is based in Delaware, officially launched the Bored Ape Yacht Club, which is stored on the ethereum blockchain, on April 30th. The complete set includes ten thousand ape-based NFTs, all of which sold out in less than 24 hours after being initially offered for approximately $200 in Ethereum cryptocurrency. The secondary market price climbed past $1,000 almost immediately and had soared to nearly $72,000 per Bored Ape by early September. On Monday, a single Bored Ape was sold at 740 Ethereum, or about $2.9 million. Despite concerns this summer over the NFT marketplace when sales slumped, other NFT collections have seen their value climb recently as well. Over the weekend, CryptoPunk #6275, a computer-generated avatar of a teal-colored alien with a beard, sold for 1319 ethereum, which equates to approximately $5.2 million. Last week, Fidenza #547, an NFT from the Art Blocks collection, sold for $1.8 million. In late August, Visa, the financial services company, purchased a CryptoPunk for its corporate collection. Over a 30-day period from mid-July to mid-August, a total of $897 million in NFT sales were recorded, according to data from the NFT tracking site NonFungible. In total, NFTs have reportedly generated close to $7 billion in global sales over the first eight months of 2021. 

Surprising Fact: 

In August, NBA superstar Stephen Curry, a former two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, paid $180,000 for a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT. Curry later changed his Twitter avatar to a picture of the NFT.

Further Reading:

Pipe-Smoking Alien CryptoPunk NFT Sells For $7.5 Million (Forbes) 

Bored Ape Yacht Club’ NFT Could Fetch $12 Million at Sotheby’s (Barron’s)


Tagged : / / / / / /

Soccer Star Messi Embraces Crypto In Move To Paris Saint-Germain


Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi will receive payment in cryptocurrency fan tokens as part of his move to French club Paris Saint-Germain, the club announced Thursday, part of the player’s lucrative two-year deal with the team amid soaring popularity for the new assets. 

Key Facts

Messi’s signing on package included a payment of “$PSG Fan Tokens,” the club said in a statement Thursday, a “world first for such a high-profile signing.” 

The club did not disclose the value of the tokens—it has also not disclosed details of Messi’s overall compensation—but said he had received a “large number” of tokens.

Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that give the holders access to certain benefits like voting on club decisions and rewards. 

The value of PGS’s token, which was launched in 2020 and has a market capitalization of around $52 million, surged to an all time high of over $60 a token amid speculation Messi would join the club.     

Marc Armstrong, Paris Saint-Germain’s chief partnership’s officer, said embracing fan tokens “has proved a massive success for the Club” and has allowed it “to engage with a new global audience, creating a significant digital revenue stream.”

Key Background

Messi is widely considered one of soccer’s best active players and one of the sporting world’s most bankable stars. His decision to join PSG comes at the end of a 20-year association with FC Barcelona—he agreed to join their youth academy at the age of 12—due to the team’s financial limitations. The use of the crypto fan tokens in his signing on package appears to be novel for such a high profile player and an indication of their increasing popularity among sports teams. Dozens of Europe’s top soccer teams have embraced them over the course of the pandemic as a sort of digital take on in-person fan clubs    

Big Number

$75 million. That’s how much Messi is believed to be earning as an annual salary at PSG, multiple people familiar with the deal told Forbes. This will be bolstered by bonuses and a cut of player rights, including jersey sales. It will keep Messi among the ranks of the world’s best paid athletes. Forbes ranked Messi as the second-highest paid athlete of 2020, scoring $130 million. 

Further Reading

Messi’s Paris St Germain package includes crypto fan tokens (Reuters)

Lionel Messi’s Deal With Paris Saint-Germain Will Keep Him Among Soccer’s Top Three Earners (Forbes)

Messi To Leave Barcelona After 17 Seasons After League Rules Complicated Effort To Forge New Contract (Forbes)


Tagged : / / / / / / /
Bitcoin (BTC) $ 41,971.25 4.40%
Ethereum (ETH) $ 2,246.84 4.69%
Litecoin (LTC) $ 73.67 5.17%
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) $ 235.48 7.59%