The NFL will allow teams to seek sponsorship on the blockchain

Soccer ball with NFL logo

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The National Football League, in a memo released Tuesday, granted teams limited permission to seek blockchain sponsorship, a partial waiver of late last summeras the popularity of the technology among fans and athletes of the organization grows.

The league said it made the decision to allow “advertising relationships without undue risk from regulators or the brand” after it completed its evaluation of the technology. Updated rules for teams that must be approved by the NFL eliminate stadium signage. For now, restrictions remain in place for certain cryptocurrencies and fan tokenswhich can be exchanged for goods and experience.

“Clubs will continue to be prohibited from directly promoting cryptocurrencies,” the memorandum states.

The NFL’s decision also came after recent blockchain-related lobbying. In February, CNBC reported that from July to December 2021, the league lobbied the Securities and Exchange Commission on “issues related to blockchain technology.” The NFL also lobbied the White House and the Departments of Justice and Commerce.

“In this changing regulatory environment, it remains important that we act diligently when evaluating potential business opportunities related to blockchain technologies and exercise due diligence with all potential partners and their business models,” the memorandum states.

The memorandum comes out a few days before the NFL’s annual meetings, which begin Saturday in Florida. The league will update team owners on business initiatives, including revised blockchain rules. For the first time since 2019, the NFL will meet in person due to the Covid pandemic.

CNBC received a copy of a memo issued by NFL Chief Revenue Officer Renee Anderson and Director of Media and Business Brian Rollapp. The update comes after the NFL and the players union struck a deal. with blockchain company Dapper Labs for the production of video collectibles. Panini owns the rights to the league’s NFT trading card. In addition, the NFL approved media partners for the first time in the 2021 season to allow blockchain ads during its games.

Joe Ruggiero, NFL’s head of consumer products, told CNBC that the team’s work with blockchain companies will not exceed three years “to give us flexibility in the long term.” Ruggiero added that the NFL could also list its official blockchain rights on the market.

It’s unclear how much the NFL will be looking for. Previously, CNBC reported that the National Basketball Association reached a $192 million deal with Coinbase over four years. Likewise, crypto platform FTX’s $10 million deal with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors could be a blueprint for potential deals between blockchain-related companies and NFL teams, according to recently released guidance.

“We are very optimistic about blockchain technology,” said Ruggiero. “We think it has a lot of potential to really shape innovation, shape interaction with fans over the next decade.”

Blockchain technology is analogous to digital ledgers and is used for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. It also effectively provides virtual collectibles such as non-fungible tokens or NFTs, unique certificates of authenticity that cannot be hacked. Tuesday’s memorandum also granted teams limited NFT permissions.

Monitors display signs of Coinbase during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“Subject to League approval, clubs may now accept advertising (without the use of club insignia and logos, unless related to an NFT League deal) for NFTs and NFT companies,” the memorandum states. However, the league will still prohibit teams from “participating in product licensing or sponsorship agreements for NFTs or NFT companies (except as permitted in connection with league-level NFT partnerships),” he adds.

NFL stars like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have capitalized on the blockchain market through NFT deals. Brady’s NFT platform, Autograph, raised $170 million in January. bloomberg.

E-commerce giant Fanatics, co-owned by the NFL, has invested in NFT Candy Digital. This firm launched in 2021 and blocked Major League Baseball’s NFT rights. In October, CNBC reported that Candy Digital was valued at $1.5 billion after bringing in investors including NFL legend Peyton Manning.

Ruggiero said the NFL will continue to evaluate the remaining restrictions on blockchain-related technologies.

“Things are changing so fast – we all need to look for new areas of innovation,” he said. “So we’re spending a lot of time looking at where the future might go.”

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