The NFL and its teams are finally able to partner with companies in the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFT spaces — but there are some pretty serious restrictions involved.
2021 was a banner year for the crypto industry making inroads in sports. Among several key developments, we witnessed:
- The NBA ink an official partnership with Coinbase worth nearly $200 million
- FTX join forces with Major League Baseball and sign stars like Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, and Shohei Ohtani as ambassadors
- A global craving for Socios’ team-specific crypto “fan tokens,” from soccer to basketball and beyond
- Crypto.com secure naming rights for Los Angeles’ erstwhile Staples Center and sign a blockbuster deal with the UFC
But aside from the reveal of its “NFL All Day” NFT project alongside NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs and dipping a toe in the waters of NFT ticketing, the National Football League has notably dragged its heels with regards to the wide world of blockchain tech.
Until this week.
At long last, the NFL has provided guidance on some with-strings-attached freedoms that teams now have in pursuing partnerships in the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFT industries. As noted in a memo sent to all 32 teams by NFL Chief Revenue Officer Renie Anderson and Chief Media and Business Officer Brian Rolapp, let’s take stock of what’s now on the table — as well as what still isn’t allowed.
NFL Crypto Policy Changes for 2022
For the first time, NFL Teams can:
- Sign partnership deals with companies in the blockchain industry, including cryptocurrency exchanges and companies that provide crypto wallets and related services like payment processing
- Agree to ad deals with NFT platforms, though team/league logos and marks cannot be included
“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?”— ✏️Jacob Feldman (@JacobFeldman4) March 22, 2022
However, NFL teams still cannot:
- Engage in promotions regarding specific cryptocurrencies
- Display in-stadium advertising related to the blockchain industry
- Accept cryptocurrency for official transactions
- Partner with NFT platforms that are not already official NFL partners
- Create and offer crypto fan tokens
- Sign partnership deals with companies in the blockchain industry longer than three years
As with the NFL’s past approaches to phenomena like fantasy and betting — years ago, the league dared not even speak their names — expect just about every one of these existing restrictions to be lifted one day. It’s going to be a slow burn, but rest assured that the NFL crypto era has officially begun, even if it’s affixed with training wheels.
In the meantime, expect individual athletes like Brady, Russell Okung, and Odell Beckham Jr. to take matters into their own hands while the league once again exercises an overabundance of caution as it relates to new and emerging revenue opportunities.