Last October, NFL officials reportedly told CNBC that the league was looking into cryptocurrency deals.
Those explorations were weighty enough to make their way to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. CNBC reported Friday that the NFL lobbied the agency on "issues related to blockchain technology" during the second half of 2021, per SEC disclosures.
The disclosures do not provide specifics.
Unlike other major North American sports leagues, the NFL has adopted a more tentative approach toward cryptocurrency sponsorships and tie-ups. Among its peers, NBA floors already feature the Coinbase name, MLB umpires wear jackets with the FTX logo, and UFC has been raking in money from a Crypto.com sponsorship.
In September, the National Football League and the NFL Players Association—the union for current and former footballers—announced that it had partnered with Dapper Labs, the blockchain firm behind NBA Top Shot NFTs. Though the announcement said that "digital video collectibles are here," as of Super Bowl Weekend, only a waitlist is available.
However, the league is releasing each Super Bowl attendee with a "virtual commemorative ticket" via their Ticketmaster wallet; these NFTs are issued on the Polygon network.
By delaying, the NFL is leaving money on the table. For example, NFTs—blockchain-based deeds of ownership connected to digital collectibles such as virtual trading cards—set a sales record of $5 billion on marketplace OpenSea during January. And NBA Top Shot has recorded $60 million in sales over the past 30 days and $909 million all-time.
But the NFL also has bargaining power and the ability to play crypto exchanges off of each other as those businesses increasingly try to attract sports fans, helping drive sponsorship prices up. Whereas FTX paid $135 million for a 19-year naming deal with the Miami Heat arena in March 2021, Crypto.com splashed out $700 million for the 20-year naming rights to the home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers just eight months later.
Football has a bigger reach stateside than any other sport, topping both television viewership and revenue metrics across leagues.
Super Bowl LVI this Sunday promises to be the largest showcase yet for cryptocurrency companies. In addition to Coinbase, FTX, and Crypto.com, trading platforms eToro and Bitbuy also plan on running ads (the latter during the Canadian telecast).