WNBA cryptocurrency is an area that is poised for growth as both women’s sports and crypto are booming! Over the last year the league has signed their first cryptocurrency partnership, and a WNBA team has too. Plus, the first stadium used by a team in the league is on the way to a cryptocurrency partnership too. So today, we take a look at the latest WNBA cryptocurrency happenings, and where things could go.
Excitingly, in October of 2021, Coinbase Global, Inc. and the Women’s National Basketball Association announced a multiyear partnership. The deal made Coinbase the exclusive cryptocurrency platform partner of the league. The global partnership was the first in the cryptocurrency category for the WNBA.
But this deal extended even beyond the WNBA – and was a huge deal! Coinbase and the NBA also announced a comprehensive, multiyear partnership. As a result, Coinbase is the official cryptocurrency platform of the NBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League, and USA Basketball. The global partnership is the first in the cryptocurrency platform category for each organization.
As part of the WNBA partnership, Coinbase will be the presenting partner of the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup. The cup is an in-season competition that will take place during the 2022 season. This partnership will consist of unique content, innovations, activations, and experiences from Coinbase to educate WNBA fans on the increasing advancements happening across the cryptoeconomy. Coinbase will also have a brand presence during nationally televised games starting with the 2022 WNBA season, which will tip off in May 2022.
“The freedom to participate and benefit from the things you believe in is at the heart of Coinbase’s mission. Nobody believes more than NBA and WNBA fans. We’re proud to become the Leagues’ official cryptocurrency partner,” said Kate Rouch, Chief Marketing Officer of Coinbase. “As part of the partnership, we will create interactive experiences to engage with the NBA and WNBA’s incredible community and athletes around the world.”
“Our partnership with Coinbase is representative of the WNBA’s emphasis on innovation as we continue to find opportunities to meet our fans where they are,” said Phil Cook, WNBA Chief Marketing Officer. “As we build off the success of the WNBA’s first 25 seasons, innovating alongside Coinbase will help us explore the future of fan engagement.”
But league sponsorship isn’t the only thing in the cryptocurrency mix. Now buildings, including stadium naming rights, are part of the discussion. Recently Crypto.com and AEG announced they had signed a 20-year, $700 million naming rights deal for the former Staples Center — now designated Crypto.com Arena.
Their press release mentioned the four pro teams that currently play in the venue: the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers, the NHL’s LA Kings, and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. But the release said Crypto.com would be an official cryptocurrency platform of only two of those teams: the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Kings. The absence of the Sparks was noticed by Sparks’ head coach Derek Fisher, among others.
As it turns out AEG is currently in negotiations with the Sparks on a new lease extension for the upcoming season. And until it is finalized, AEG is not in the position to facilitate discussions regarding potential sponsor opportunities with the Sparks.
The Sparks quickly issued its own statement: The LA Sparks have a long-standing, 20-year partnership with AEG and the Staples Center, a building where we’ve won three WNBA championships and showcased the talents of the greatest women’s basketball players in the world. While the Sparks are in the process of standard lease negotiations, we’re excited to play basketball at the new Crypto.com Arena moving forward. Since the naming rights announcement, Crypto.com initiated positive dialogue with the Sparks surrounding partnership opportunities. We remain optimistic about our ongoing lease negotiations as well as our early conversations with Crypto.com.
Hopefully they seal the renewal deal on their home venue shortly, and become the first WNBA team to play in a cryptocurrency-named venue.
WNBA teams are busy forming cryptocurrency partnerships as well. Monumental Sports & Entertainment and FTX reached a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal in December 2021, that makes FTX the official cryptocurrency exchange of MSE, the Wizards, Capitals, WNBA Mystics, NBA G League Capital City Go-Go, and Capital One Arena. The deal makes FTX.US the official crypto exchange of MSE and its properties, as well as their exclusive non-fungible token (NFT) partner.
“Our acumen is trying to be first in new tech opportunities,” said MSE President of Business Operations & Chief Commercial Officer Jim Van Stone. “We just found that we had so much synergy with FTX because the purpose of this partnership is really about education and engaging our community.”
As for the specific activations planned, FTX will be the presenting partner for the “Big Block-Chain,” an in-game and social media feature highlighting blocked shots by Monumental’s basketball teams.
The Warriors signed a similar deal with FTX recently as well, and made their partnership global, rather than just local for a reported $10 million. Other major deals inked by FTX and FTX.US in the past year include the naming rights to the arena of the NBA’s Miami Heat and a star-filled lineup of ambassadors including Stephen Curry.
Beyond league and team partnerships with crypto companies, athletes are jumping on the movement, too. Over the last few years, athletes have started negotiating to have part of their pay delivered in cryptocurrency.
For example, former NFL Seattle Seahawk offensive lineman Russell Okung decided that he wanted half of his $13 million contract for 2020 in Bitcoin -a cryptocurrency. Then Kansas City Chiefs player Sean Culkin took the entirety of his 2021 base salary – $920,000 – in Bitcoin.
And most recently, Cade Cunningham, the Detroit Piston’s No 1. pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, agreed to a multi-year partnership with cryptocurrency platform BlockFi in which they’ll pay part of his 4-year $46.5M deal in crypto. His signing bonus was received from BlockFi directly in bitcoin, too.
It will be interesting to see if any WNBA players request to be paid in cryptocurrency. Or if any form their own crypto partnerships in the years ahead.
The National Women’s Soccer League is making moves to ensure that women become investors and creators as Web3 and cryptocurrency change the world. The league has recently signed new deals that send crypto directly to players and include crypto education. Meanwhile individual NWSL teams are also building crypto partnerships.
Recently, Voyager was named the NWSL’s first-ever cryptocurrency brokerage partner. The sponsorship is one of the largest in NWSL history. Each player will be eligible to receive an equal portion of the Voyager-established NWSL players’ fund, deposited in an account accessible via the Voyager app. Voyager will also provide NWSL players with financial education on crypto, including key lessons and tools, to help develop long-term financial growth opportunities for players potentially well after their competitive playing careers have ended.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Voyager to the NWSL’s growing list of partners, each of whom offers our clubs and players crucial support as we continue to build a league where the world’s best players compete,” said Marla Messing, NWSL interim CEO. “Voyager’s investment in the league is especially innovative because we’ve collectively designed the partnership to include direct financial resources for every one of our players, as well as education on the revolutionary changes underway in digital assets.”
In addition to Voyager’s huge deal with the NWSL, Crypto.com became a founding partner of the new NWSL Angel City Football Club based in Los Angeles. The agreement spans four years and is worth in the low-seven figures annually, according to Sports Business Journal. Crypto payments directly to players, Web3 education, and premium team partnerships could all be charted in the WNBA as well.
Only time will tell how cryptocurrency continues to impact the league. As a whole interest in cryptocurrency is waning a bit:
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