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Here Are the Sports Marketing Deals Crumbling Along With FTX

League of Legends maker Riot Games is the latest firm to act, asking the bankruptcy court to terminate its valuable esports deal.

4 min read
Looking a little flat. Image: Shutterstock

Once flush with cash, FTX racked up prominent sports marketing deals in 2021 and early 2022, committing at least $375 million in disclosed funds to teams and leagues along the way. Now those sponsorships are all falling apart, one by one, since FTX filed for bankruptcy in November amid a liquidity crunch.

All of FTX’s major sports and esports partners have now either suspended their respective deals amid the exchange's very public collapse, or have filed legal challenges to formally undo their once-valuable agreements. Here’s a running list of FTX’s sports partners and how they’ve navigated the exchange’s downfall.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas: The Formula One (F1) racing team announced on November 11 that it had suspended its FTX sponsorship and removed the exchange’s branding from its car. The companies had agreed to a long-term deal in September 2021, but never revealed terms. FTX and Mercedes previously launched F1-themed NFTs, some of which collectors now can’t withdraw from FTX’s platform amid the bankruptcy.

Miami Heat: Although still called the FTX Arena at present, the NBA’s Miami Heat tweeted a statement on November 11 saying that the team and Miami-Dade County are “immediately taking action to terminate our business relationships with FTX,” and will seek a new naming rights partner. FTX had locked up the rights in a massive 19-year, $135 million deal announced in April 2021.

Furia: Brazilian esports team Furia said it would “discontinue” its FTX sponsorship on November 11, as shared in a statement tweeted by co-owner and poker pro André Akkari. Furia’s one-year deal with the exchange was relatively small, valued at $3.2 million when announced in April 2022. Akkari said the team would always prioritize fans over its brand partners, and withdrew from the deal amid concern over FTX “harming” users.

Golden State Warriors: The NBA’s Warriors made their move November 14, revealing that the team would stop promoting or advertising the exchange, per a report from ESPN. The multi-year deal, announced in December 2021, was reportedly worth at least $10 million, although official terms were never revealed.

Team SoloMid: Esports club Team SoloMid (TSM) inked FTX’s largest-disclosed deal in June 2021 at a whopping $210 million across 10 years. Dubbed TSM FTX, the team announced on November 16 that it has suspended its deal with the firm and will remove FTX branding from its jerseys, social media, and more. The esports industry is heavily reliant on sponsorship funds, but TSM said it expects to remain profitable going forward.

UC Berkeley: The University of California Berkeley signed a 10-year naming rights deal with FTX for its stadium in August 2021, with the firm agreeing to pay $17.5 million—all in crypto. But on November 17, the school’s athletics department confirmed to CoinDesk that it has suspended the deal. The logo had already been wiped from the field, as social media videos suggested days beforehand.

Major League Baseball: FTX’s five-year deal to put a logo patch on the uniforms of league umpires remains intact, as of this writing, although the league’s commissioner has now commented on it. Rob Manfred said on November 17 that it was “probably a pretty good bet” that the FTX patch would be removed for the 2023 season. While he didn’t comment on the terms of the agreement, he said it was “a meaningful deal” for the league.

Washington Wizards/Capitals: In December 2021, FTX revealed a wide-ranging deal with Monumental Sports and Entertainment’s Washington-based teams, including the NBA’s Wizards, NHL’s Capitals, and WNBA’s Mystics. The alliance was billed as a move to get the exchange closer to the United States’ political heart. On November 17, the company said that it would suspend FTX promotions aside from a few giveaways that were already in production.

Riot Games: The studio behind popular game League of Legends—a favorite of FTX founder and ex-CEO Sam Bankman-Fried—signed a seven-year deal in August 2021 to have the firm sponsor its League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) esports competition. On December 16, the firm issued a filing in FTX's bankruptcy proceedings to have its deal terminated, claiming that FTX had fallen behind on payments and that founder Bankman-Fried's reputation as a fan was hurting its property. Riot alleges that FTX still owes it nearly $90 million from the agreement.

Athletes: FTX also signed a number of major athletes to its roster, including Tom Brady, Steph Curry, Naomi Osaka, and Shohei Ohtani. All four of those stars were given equity when agreeing to endorse FTX, although it’s unclear whether every such athlete deal was the same. None have commented on FTX’s collapse, as of this writing, although all four have since been named in a class action suit for promoting the exchange.

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