The Miami Heat NBA franchise has been playing in the American Airlines Arena for 22 years. But in April, the franchise announced a new naming rights sponsor: cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
As the "official and exclusive cryptocurrency exchange partner of the Miami Heat," FTX will put its name on the Heat arena and have prominent branding within the stadium, it will also take part in contests and promotions, as well as link up with the Heat's digital content.
FTX and the Heat did not disclose the financial details of the sponsorship deal, but the Miami Herald reported it was a 19-year, $135 million deal, details that Decrypt confirmed independently. On Friday on stage at the 2021 Ethereal Virtual Summit powered by Decrypt, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried confirmed that his company's Heat deal is for 19 years.
And to anyone who questions whether a crypto company that has only existed for two years can really afford to sign a 19-year-long sports sponsorship, Bankman-Fried put any doubts to rest with a declarative comment about just how well his company has done during the crypto bull run of the past year.
"It's a good question," he said. "Without going into the details, it's been a pretty good year for us. To the point where, frankly, we don't need to rely on the other 18 years to have the funds for this. So, it's been a phenomenal year for a number of businesses, and for the crypto industry in particular. And then I think us, even more so. And so, that's given us a pretty big cushion."
The implication: FTX is doing so well, it could just pay the full $135 million contract up front.
Besides the Heat, FTX recently signed No. 1 NFL Draft pick Trevor Lawrence to a lucrative endorsement deal with Blockfolio, the crypto price tracking app. (FTX's U.S. business, FTX.us, owns Blockfolio, and is a separate entity from its global business FTX.com; Bankman-Fried is CEO of all three.)
Bankman-Fried said the thinking behind the sports marketing push is clear: "We wanted to really get our name out there. And this is one of the highest-profile ways of doing it. We sort of did a survey of the potential openings, and Miami really stood out there for two reasons: It's a great team, and it's a great city, but also, it's just a city that was a great fit for us with what Mayor Suarez and the whole crew there have been doing to try and bring tech in, and particularly crypto."
Mayor Suarez, who has led an aggressive public charge to turn Miami into Crypto City, was also on the Ethereal Summit panel, and drew a similarity between what he has done in Miami to attract crypto entrepreneurs and what Bankman-Fried has done to grow the name recognition of FTX.
"I think for us, in terms of being competitive—and in Sam's environment, he's in an ultra-competitive environment—you're always looking for what is that edge?" Suarez said. "I think in the case of FTX, for Sam, it's indisputable that his big investment [with the Heat] has produced tremendous return on investment in terms of the great media that he's gotten already. Like he said, on day one he could pay for it, and on day one he got an incredible return on his investment. So he's clearly a good investor."