The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one the most popular sports league in the United States. The league’s best players get paid the most, and while several teams in the National Football League (NFL) are more valuable, the NBA is more recognizable - even outside of the country.
In crypto’s mission to become a worldwide behemoth, it is important that it makes an entry into every league and industry. You don’t make an entry into the sports industry without conquering the NBA or NFL. Thankfully, there are some significant signs of progress in that line already.
Using Fan Tokens to Penetrate the NBA Presence
The past few months have seen crypto awareness push into the NBA. Teams are still scared to accept crypto, but there are no doubt signs of incorporation. The most prominent way, for now, is with fan tokens. In June, the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the league’s most popular teams, joined Socios - a blockchain-based platform that allows teams to tokenize their franchises.
As Socios announced, the 76ers will integrate branding and marketing from its site across their digital and physical branding spaces. Socios will appear on screens at the Wells Fargo Center, the 76ers’ home ground. The brand will also appear on the team’s social media and website platforms.
According to the platform's chief executive Alexandre Dreyfus, the partnership was a first for Socios and the NBA. He hinted that basketball fans would soon be able to see the 76ers fan tokens as part of its roster.
Less than a month later, Socios nabbed another NBA partnership. The Boston Celtics - a somewhat even bigger brand than the 76ers - joined its roster, becoming the second NBA team to do so. In an announcement from the NBA, Socios confirmed that it would have placement on the Celtics’ website.
The platform didn’t mention anything about tokenizing players in the form of digital collectibles.
But, it said that it would also use the Celtics’ logo for its international marketing efforts. Dreyfus explained that increased partnership with NBA teams will lead to greater fan engagement for the teams’ fans, adding that fans might see tokens for the team as Socios develops.
Jersey Sales and Fan Engagement
Besides fan tokens, teams have also been able to partner with crypto brands directly. Last month, the NBA announced that the Portland Trail Blazers had partnered with StormX - a blockchain platform that allows users to earn rewards by shopping at global stores or completing microtasks.
Under the terms of the partnership, the Trail Blazers will feature the StormX logo on their jerseys for the next five seasons starting from 2021/2022. The parties explained that they had entered into an 8-figure contract, although they refused to disclose the size of the deal. Sponsorship experts estimate that jersey deals usually range around the $10 million a year mark.
The partnership also includes in-arena branding, meaning that StormX’s logo will also most likely feature at the Trail Blazers’ home ground - the Moda Center.
Besides the jersey patch, the Trail Blazers and StormX will also launch their first non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The tokens will be based on the Gameday Poster Series- a series featuring fresh designs from local artists for the Blazers. Team president and chief executive Chris McGowan said that StormX will educate and motivate the team’s fans about crypto and earning cashback in digital assets.
The Bulls Launching an NFT Drop
Speaking of NFTs, another team is moving forward with an initiative into the space. The Chicago Bulls, the same team where Michael Jordan grew to become a worldwide name, announced in July that it had partnered with e-commerce giant Shopify to launch an NFT series.
According to an announcement, Shopify president Harley Finklestein explained that the NFT drop will depict each of the Bulls’ 6 championship wins in the Jordan era. The Bulls Legacy Collection will be released in about six drops, with each token celebrating the Bulls’ championship wins between 1991 and 1998. The first launch, which was on July 26, has already been sold out.
Finklestein noted that the Chicago Bulls is one of Shopify’s first partners to launch an NFT storefront on its platform. But, he noted that the service will only be available for a few people as it is still in its formative stages.
Shopify had integrated Sweet’s NFT marketplace earlier this year, allowing its customers to create and sell NFTs directly through its interface. With Sweet, people can issue and launch NFTs using Ethereum’s ERC-721 token standard, the Flow blockchain from Dapper Labs, and Simple Ledger Protocol’s SLP token standard.
The integration of crypto and the NBA will be important if crypto is to penetrate the sports industry. Teams will need to be more comfortable with cryptocurrencies before these assets can be accepted for payments, and initiatives like these will be critical to that mission.