NWSL players will receive a portion of the deal directly in cryptocurrency. Each year Voyager will set aside part of its payments to NWSL—roughly 50%, according to someone familiar with the terms—to create a pool that will be evenly split by every player on an NWSL roster. Voyager will help educate the players on crypto, and they will be able to choose which currencies to receive their funds.
The Nike and Voyager deals both show corporate confidence in a league coming off a tumultuous season. The NWSL was rocked over the past few months by a series of allegations of verbal and sexual abuse by coaches, with the league itself facing criticism for its failure to respond appropriately to the accusations when they were first made. The scandal led to the departure of commissioner Lisa Baird, as well as a series of ownership, coaching and front office changes.
Those revelations came in the middle of a season that was shaping up to be a massive commercial success, with an influx of sponsor dollars and strong results from the second season of its media partnerships with CBS. The league is set to grow to 12 teams in 2022, with expansion franchises in Los Angeles and San Diego.
“The NWSL’s future is so bright, and we want to be part of it,” Voyager co-founder and CEO Steve Ehrlich said in an interview. “These women are popular athletes within our culture. They go to play in the World Cup, and everybody tunes in. We like the vision of where the NWSL is going, we like the addition of the new teams, and what [interim CEO Marla Messing] is doing.”
The surge in popularity of cryptocurrency has created a valuable sales opportunity for sports teams and leagues. In the past few months cryptocurrency companies of various sorts have signed major jersey patch deals, naming rights deals and fan-token partnerships.
Headquartered in New York, Voyager has already done a handful of sports deals, including partnerships with NFL player Rob Gronkowski, NASCAR driver Landon Cassill and an international deal with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
This partnership was negotiated on the league side by Messing and chief revenue officer Mitch Poll.