The NFL has decided to allow teams to seek limited blockchain sponsorships, but bitcoin promotion is still prohibited

The National Football League allowed clubs limited authorization to seek blockchain sponsorships in a memo sent Tuesday, reversing a decision made late last summer, as the technology increases in popularity among the league's fans and athletes.

After completing a review of the technology, the league decided to allow "promotional connections without accepting excessive regulator or brand risk." Stadium signage is not included in the amended team guidelines, which must be approved by the NFL. For the time being, restrictions on certain cryptocurrencies and fan tokens, which can be traded for items and experiences, remain in effect.

The document states, "Clubs will continue to be barred from directly promoting bitcoin."

The NFL's move follows its recent lobbying efforts in the area of blockchain. The league lobbied the Securities and Exchange Commission on "problems connected to blockchain technology" from July to December 2021, according to CNBC. The NFL also lobbied the White House as well as the Justice and Commerce departments.

"In this changing regulatory environment, it is critical that we proceed with caution when considering prospective commercial prospects utilizing blockchain technologies, and that we undertake sufficient due diligence on all potential partners and their business models," the memo states.

The memo comes just days before the NFL's annual meetings, which kick off in Florida on Saturday. The league will keep team owners informed about business efforts, such as the new blockchain guidelines. Due to the Covid epidemic, the NFL will hold its meetings in person for the first time since 2019.

The message, signed by NFL Chief Revenue Officer Renie Anderson and Chief Media and Business Officer Brian Rolapp, was obtained by CNBC. The news comes after the NFL and the players' union reached an agreement with Dapper Labs, a blockchain business, to make video collectibles. The league's NFT trading card rights are owned by Panini. In addition, during the 2021 season, the NFL permitted media partners to allow blockchain commercials during games for the first time.

The NFL's president of consumer goods, Joe Ruggiero, told CNBC that the team's contracts with blockchain businesses will last no more than three years, "to allow us flexibility for the long run." The NFL may also sell its official blockchain rights on the marketplace, according to Ruggiero.

The amount the NFL would ask for is unknown. The National Basketball Association and Coinbase have agreed to a four-year partnership worth $192 million, according to CNBC. Similarly, under the newly released guidance, cryptocurrency platform FTX's $10 million arrangement with the NBA's Golden State Warriors might serve as a model for future blockchain-related deals with NFL teams.

"Blockchain technology is tremendously bullish for us," Ruggiero remarked. "We believe it has a lot of potential to drive innovation and audience engagement over the next decade."

Blockchain technology is related to digital ledgers and is utilized for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. It also successfully provides unique and unhackable certifications of authenticity to virtual collectibles such as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. Teams were also given limited restrictions on NFTs as part of Tuesday's communication.
Monitors display Coinbase signage during the company's initial public offering (IPO) at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Monitors display Coinbase signage during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
"Subject to League clearance, Clubs may now accept advertising for NFTs and NFT firms (without using club marks and logos, unless in connection with a League NFT arrangement)," the document states. The league would still restrict teams from "participating in product licensing arrangements or sponsorships for NFTs or NFT firms (other than as permitted in connection with League-level NFT collaborations)," according to the statement.

NFT agreements have been used by NFL stars like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to profit from the blockchain economy. According to Bloomberg, Brady's NFT platform, Autograph, raised $170 million in January.

Candy Digital was invested in by e-commerce behemoth Fanatics, which is co-owned by the NFL. That company debuted in 2021 and secured Major League Baseball's National Football League (NFL) rights. Candy Digital was valued at $1.5 billion in October, according to CNBC, following a funding round that included NFL legend Peyton Manning.

The NFL, according to Ruggiero, will continue to assess its remaining restrictions on blockchain-related technologies.

"Everything is changing so quickly," he remarked, "that we all need to be looking at the next areas of innovation." "As a result, we're devoting a lot of time to pondering where the future might lead."
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