Crypto exchange FTX has inked a bumper seven-year branding deal with one of North America’s premier esports tournaments — another gem in chief exec Sam Bankman-Fried’s infinity gauntlet.
As of this weekend, FTX will be heavily promoted across Riot Games’ flagship League of Legends (LoL) bracket, the League Championship Series (LCS).
This means the the exchange’s logo is to appear on the bottom left-hand side of the screen and tacked onto a variety of the tournament’s graphics and stats, noted CoinDesk.
The Antigua and Barbuda-bound brand will also sponsor the season’s award for most improved player.
LA-headquartered Riot Games boasted it was the firm’s largest ever sponsorship contract for an esports league, although didn’t reveal specific financial details.
Whatever the price, the partnership could see FTX further promoted to millions of LoL fans.
Gaming portal Esports Charts reports the most recent LCS matches garnered about 176,000 viewers on average, capping out at just over 400,000.
FTX all the things
It was only in June that FTX closed the biggest deal in esports history.
FTX paid gaming org Team SoloMid (TSM) a pearl-clutching $210 million to turn TSM into TSM FTX for the next 10 years.
For scale, TSM itself was worth $410 million at the tail-end of 2020.
Interestingly, Riot Games’ strict rules around crypto promotion have complicated the matter. In fact, the company banned TSM FTX from using the new branding in competition.
FTX can’t place its logo on team jersey’s and players can’t use FTX branding on their social media profiles.
Reports of the team’s players spelling out the crypto exchange’s US domain (FTX.US) by banning certain characters surfaced on Reddit this week.
“I find it funny that Riot banned FTX from appearing as a sponsor on the LCS broadcast but they still got the analyst desk talking about it,” said one poster.
See ya, American Airlines
And in March, FTX chief curl officer Bankman-Fried forked out $135 million in a mammoth 19-year deal with the NBA’s Miami Heat to rename the team’s home — formerly American Airlines Arena — to FTX Arena.
We also got the slightly bizarre news that the US arm of the FTX brand had partnered with Major League Baseball (MLB) to become its “Official Cryptocurrency Exchange.”
This meant FTX would be MLB’s umpire uniform “patch partner,” emblazoning empire uniforms with the FTX.US logo — a first for the 152-year old institution.
While future generations will consider MLB another one of Bankman-Fried’s infinity gems, FTX isn’t alone in marrying crypto with sports in hopes of a golden ticket.
In July, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) signed a $175 million partnership — its largest to date — with competitor Crypto.com. This would see the exchange become the league’s “global fight kit partner.”
A few weeks later, NBA franchise the Portland Trail Blazers announced crypto cashback startup StormX would become its official “blockchain partner.”
Bankman-Fried has blue chips in his sights
It’s fun to think about what other slices of our shared reality FTX could brand with all that dirty arbitrage money (what about the Golden Gate bridge, or a hospital?).
The company netted a gut-busting $900 million in a July funding round that valued the firm at $18 billion.
According to the Financial Times, Bankman-Fried plans to use this money to target blue chip companies ripe for acquisition.
Indeed, some of the biggest names in finance could become infinity gems for ambitious young crypto firms like FTX parent Alameda Research.
“If we are the biggest exchange, [buying Goldman Sachs and CME] is not out of the question at all,” Bankman-Fried recently told the FT.
At least for now, the proof is in the pudding: Forbes now estimates 29-year-old Bankman-Fried is worth $8.7 billion, nearly double his $4.5 billion portfolio in February.
Edit 19:57 UTC, Aug 5: Clarified in paragraph four that FTX’s parent company is headquartered in Antigua and Barbuda.