- MLB star Shohei Ohtani has joined FTX as a global brand ambassador.
- The Angels player will be paid in cryptocurrency and receive equity in the company.
Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Shohei Ohtani is a global icon: a popular baseball player who thrived in Japan before dominating in Major League Baseball over the last few seasons. Now he’ll lend that star status to cryptocurrency exchange FTX as its latest global brand ambassador.
Today, FTX announced the alliance with Ohtani—the latest in a recent series of sports world sponsorships and signings for the rising exchange. The Los Angeles Angels pitcher will be paid in cryptocurrency and also receive equity in the company, according to a report from CNN.
Alongside his increasing global popularity, Ohtani is also unique in being both a successful pitcher and a powerful batter. He belted 46 home runs during the 2021 season, for example, but also won nine games as the Angels’ starting pitcher. That rare combination has made him one of the biggest stars in the league.
For FTX, today’s announcement only extends a recent run of splashy moves designed to help expand the brand via sports partnerships and ambassadors. FTX is much younger than leading exchange Coinbase, for example, but is trying to make up the difference in brand awareness by targeting sports and esports fans alike.
“There’s been some user growth, but we are really coming from behind on name recognition,” FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried said last week at the Decrypt and Yahoo Finance Crypto Goes Mainstream event. “We’ve been around for two and a half years. That’s a lot less long than some of the other big names in the crypto exchange business. When someone’s looking to get involved in crypto for the first time, we’ve found that they haven’t heard of FTX.”
FTX previously brought on NFL quarterback Tom Brady and NBA star Stephen Curry as fellow brand ambassadors, with both similarly receiving equity shares as part of their respective deals. The exchange also partnered with Major League Baseball as the league’s official crypto sponsor, with FTX patches appearing on the umpires' uniforms.
The exchange also purchased naming rights for the Miami Heat’s arena, as well as for the stadium of Cal Berkeley’s football team. In the esports industry, FTX paid $210 million for naming rights to popular club Team SoloMid (now TSM FTX), and also sponsored Riot Games’ League of Legends competitions.
In September, Bankman-Fried told Decrypt Editor-in-Chief Dan Roberts that while he couldn’t prove that the sports spending was boosting user counts, he saw anecdotal evidence that it was helping with brand awareness. “You can't just buy that with Facebook ads,” he said.