The Dallas Cowboys struck the NFL’s first deal Wednesday with a digital currency platform, signing Blockchain.com as the team’s “exclusive digital asset partner.”
Blockchain.com co-founder and CEO Peter Smith joined Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at The Star in Frisco to announce the partnership. They did not address what Blockchain.com is paying for the sponsorship.
The deal will provide branding and advertising opportunities for Blockchain.com, as well as club space inside AT&T Stadium, rights to social and digital integration, signage and TV, radio and digital rights.
“When you have a chance to really delve into the kind of future that you have in the digital world, I wanted the Dallas Cowboys to be a part of that future in any and every way we could,” Jones said.
Cryptocurrency firms, which view sports fans as a receptive audience for digital currency, are quickly becoming big advertisers and sponsors of sports. This year’s Super Bowl drew a U.S. TV audience of 101 million and featured ads by five crypto exchanges.
Crypto.com struck the biggest deal in that space last year when it bought naming rights to the former Staples Center in Los Angeles, the home venue of the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams, the Kings hockey teams and the Sparks women’s basketball team. The Los Angeles Times reported in November that the Singapore cryptocurrency exchange paid more than $700 million for naming rights for 20 years.
The NFL moved more slowly into embracing crypto firms than the NBA did. In September, the NFL informed teams they could not sell sponsorships to cryptocurrency trading firms until the league could conduct a study.
Jones said the NFL established parameters at its most recent meeting for how clubs can partner with cryptocurrency firms. For example, fans won’t be able to use crypto at Cowboys games and teams can’t pay players in digital currencies.
“That’s why we immediately are making this announcement and making our relationship public because the league addressed it,” he said.
In late March, the NFL told teams it could begin signing sponsorship deals with blockchain-related businesses and accept advertising for NFTs and NFT companies.
Founded in 2011, Blockchain.com boasts over 80 million customers in 200 countries with transactions totaling $1.2 trillion. The company, backed by venture capital firms, was last valued at $14 billion.
“Over the course of our long-term partnership, our goal is to partner with the Dallas Cowboys on helping the world to understand cryptocurrency,” Smith said.
As part of the deal with the Cowboys, exclusive fan experiences and rewards will be offered through Blockchain.com’s digital wallet. Those could include away game VIP trips and player-hosted events.
Smith said Blockchain.com chose the Cowboys because of the team’s status among sports franchises. The Cowboys rank as the world’s most valuable sports franchise at $6.5 billion valuation and Jones has pioneered the growth of corporate sponsorships tied to the team.
Crypto companies are trying to raise brand awareness through sports and the NFL’s typically high-income fan base is a desirable place to start, said Rebecca Achen, a professor at the University of the Pacific who studies marketing and social media in professional sports.
Achen, who also is an executive board member of the Sport Marketing Association, said long-term sports sponsorships can run anywhere from $27 million to $700 million. She estimates the Cowboys-Blockchain.com agreement is in the ballpark of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s recent 10-year, $175 million deal with Crypto.com.
Crypto sponsorships can be expanded, Achen said, and she pointed to the English Premier League’s use of fan tokens. U.K. soccer clubs have given fans access to exclusive events when they use crypto and some teams are selling NFTs.
“It’s hard to say [when] because the number of Americans who are buying into crypto isn’t very large in the scheme of things,” Achen said.
Pew Research Center estimates that 16% of Americans have invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency.
The Cowboys have a history of pioneering new ways to create revenue from the team’s highly-touted brand. As far back as 1995, Jones broke ranks with the rest of the NFL and struck his own lucrative sponsorship deals at Texas Stadium, the team’s former home in Irving. Until then, NFL Properties had handled such deals and split profits evenly among teams.
But it was the NBA that took the major plunge into crypto partnerships.
Crypto.com’s splashy entrance is considered to be one of the biggest naming rights deals in sports history. The NBA signed its first sponsorship deal with Coinbase.com in October. That same month, the Dallas Mavericks announced a five-year partnership with publicly traded cryptocurrency platform Voyager to become its first cryptocurrency brokerage and international partner.