NFL teams will be able to sign sponsorship deals with crypto exchanges this year, but don’t expect the Green Bay Packers to host games at FTX Field anytime soon. The league sent a memo to its clubs Tuesday, outlining changes to its blockchain partnerships policies and making clear its intentions to continue a methodical warming to the evolving category.
“The League has identified certain blockchain-related businesses that we believe may be engaged for League and club promotional relationships without undertaking excessive regulatory or brand risk,” three league execs wrote in the memo, “provided that the companies in question and the specific products being promoted have been properly vetted.”
Starting this year, clubs will be able to enter sponsor ties with blockchain-based exchange and wallet companies. Teams can also accept advertising for NFT companies (including marketplaces like OpenSea), though they won’t be able to offer club marks and logos for the deals. The Gutter Cat Gang, therefore, will have to wait to become the Official NFT Community of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The changes were approved at a recent meeting of the NFL’s Business Ventures Committee. Teams are also restricted to making shorter team deals that expire before the 2025 season.
“We’re really bullish on the power of blockchain technology,” NFL SVP and head of consumer products Joe Ruggiero said in an interview. “That said, we’re really focused on: How do we be careful and thoughtful in engaging in this space?”
Despite last year’s limitations, crypto exchanges managed to get themselves in front of football fans. FTX leaned on Tom Brady in a series of commercials, while Coinbase stole the Super Bowl with a bouncing QR code.
The NFL’s stance toward fan token companies remains unchanged—allowing limited deals, like the one the New England Patriots struck with Socios. And teams will still be unable to directly promote cryptocurrencies, as the league remains wary of the field’s links to illegal activities in advance of potential regulation.
Individual clubs are also limited in their ability to sign licensing deals for NFTs; they can only put out the collectibles “as permitted in connection with League-level NFT partnerships.” To date, those include an NFT ticket deal with Ticketmaster, NFT card offerings with Panini, and NFT video collectibles made by Dapper Labs (NFL All Day), which has also put together team-specific drops of digital mementos.