Crypto sports sponsorships – in bloom or decline?

The chess tournament FTX Crypto Cup 2022 recently concluded with Magnus Carlsen as the winner. FTX – a trading platform for futures and derivatives, is among the three big sponsors from the crypto world which are actively advertising in global sporting events, the other two being and the exchange, Coinbase.

Coinbase, eToro,, Tezos and FTX have emerged as the big names among crypto brands to sponsor some of the biggest events in the world of sports, hitherto ruled by FMCG brands.

As the crypto winter continues, there is a question mark being raised on how the billions of dollars in sponsorships will fare in the near future. Here are some details on what’s been happening in the last few years.

Crypto and sports sponsorships

The Super Bowl, the big finale of the NFL in the US this February, was dubbed Crypto Bowl for the many sponsors it had with blockchain and cryptocurrency offerings. The returns were not disappointing for Coinbase, one of the sponsors, which noticed 10 million hits on its website soon after airing the ad.

In the last there years since 2019, estimates suggest billions of dollars being poured into sponsorship deals. Their audience too has grown in tandem with the increase in bitcoin price. Pro sports events, entertainment and athletics shows are popular with 70% of American adults.

In 2021, the prominent crypto sponsors were Coinbase,, eToro, FTX and Tezos. Their focus were events, arenas and players from soccer, basketball, American football, Formula 1, UFC and baseball. In football and soccer, crypto brands have broken into the top 10 largest spenders globally.

Projections for what’s ahead

A Nielsen report this year has estimated the total sponsorship amount to be spent by crypto, NFT, and blockchain companies to touch USD 5 billion by the year 2026. From 2021 as base, this will be an increase of over 700%. This fast rate of growth is a continuation of the trend between 2019-21, when sponsorships grew by over 1,000%. That’s just like how bitcoin prices tend to surge.

Big gains, bigger deals

As we see, crypto businesses have been quick to pump their money into one of the big advertising venues, sports. Their venues too are big. There is also a flow from the other side – pro players promoting crypto brands. The side effect spreads further – conventional promoters are adopting crypto, like Adidas with NFTs.

Formula One made a grand appearance in the Miami Grand Prix on May 8. This year, reports say that virtually every Formula 1 team has a crypto or blockchain sponsor.

Soccer, Baseball and Basketball
According to Bloomberg, USD 2.4 billion was the amount of sponsorship deals committed in the last one and half year. The crypto winter has put clouds over some of these, especially the smaller deals.

  • Binance the top-rated crypto exchange, has deals with Cristiano Ronaldo and the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. It was the official shirt sponsor of Napoli, the Italian football team, in 2021 in a deal reportedly worth $32 million.
  • Coinbase had agreements with National Basketball Association and player Kevin Durant.
  • eToro had deals with seven English teams paid in bitcoin and estimated around £5-6 million.
  • FTX in 2021 signed long term agreements with Major League Baseball (MLB).
  • Even Antpool, the maker of POW dedicated mining equipment, has not lagged behind, and has sponsored NBA’s Houston Rockets.

The payout: fans driving sponsorships

What are sports ads about? They urge fans to visit an exchange, buy and trade bitcoin, ether and cryptocurrencies, new NFT collections, and other such offerings. They intend to attract and convert more and more users into crypto owners, given that a vast majority do not yet understand the technology or are wary of its darker, greed filled shadows. The Nielsen study reveals the crypto-awareness of eSports and sports fans – between 39-52 percent were aware of cryptocurrencies, a figure slightly higher than the outside mainstream population. That figure stands at 43% for US men (19% for women) aged between 18-29, who have either traded or used cryptocurrencies.

The dark shadow of cryptocurrency sponsors

The Terra platform had a sponsorship deal with Washington Nationals, reportedly worth $38 million. A promo tweet from the latter is said to have been published around the time of the Terra crash. The Nielsen report has highlighted legitimacy and fan engagement as two aspects that are important for the success of crypto sponsorships.

The near future

While bitcoin prices hove around their 200-day average line, and the entire market losing half its market cap in just six months, the crypto winter is likely to affect small time or short duration agreements.

The sponsorship deals are obviously facing the heat. Coinbase had to terminate 18% of its workforce, and Bank of America lost half of active crypto users this year. Reports in the New York Post have described companies facing legal notices for halting payments.

The next big event sponsorship – the FIFA World Cup Qatar taking place this year, remains unaffected, as is expected to continue with the agreement.

An insider in the industry believes these are waiting times. Once the bulls reappear, crypto sponsors will be active again. In any case, the big agreements are long-term deals and thus secure.


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