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Crypto’s Year In Sports: A 2021 Review

Crypto's Year In Sports: A 2021 Review
Written by publisher team

Sports penetrated cryptocurrency in 2021 at a level that very few other brand categories have come close to. We cover sports participation across crypto and blockchain technologies every weekend sport slideSo when we see 2022 kick off at full throttle, we’ll take a look at everything we’ve covered in 2021.

We will do this by sorting cryptocurrency engagement in sports through the lens of three main groups: team and league partnerships, brand engagement, and athlete endorsements and advocates.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories in sports and blockchain technology hitting the news world in 2021.

Deep Dive into Sports Engagement for 2021

Sports team and league partnerships

One of the biggest crypto deals in sports to date is the recent partnership between Coinbase and the NBA, a huge deal that followed the NBA’s experience with NFTs thanks to their partnership with Dapper Labs. This deal seems to have inspired other major leagues, sending the message that real revenue can play a role here; The WNBA, NFL and La Liga have followed the NBA’s lead, all teaming up with Dapper Labs for their NFT markets. The NFL is expected to be fully launched in beta in the coming weeks. However, the NFL has largely pumped out team-specific deal breaks into crypto.

NFTs have penetrated the sport at basically every level, and this was no exception for teams, with individual teams across a variety of teams and leagues getting their hands on NFTs in 2021; The NBA teams arguably led the offensive here, with the likes of the Hornets, Jazz Warriors, Bucks, Caves and many others exploring team-focused NFT projects.

In esports, crypto-exchange platform FTX has made a splash with a refreshing sponsorship in the emerging space, teaming up with esports org TSM to rebrand the institution as TSM.FTX; While the move didn’t come without some snags, it is arguably one of the biggest noisemakers to sponsor the esports establishment in 2021. Coinbase has been another aggressive name in esports in the past year, pairing up with the likes of

In European football, has been particularly aggressive, signing a league-wide deal with Serie A. However, team involvement has also been plentiful, with plenty of examples such as AS Roma’s 3-year, $42 million deal with Zytara Labs. When it comes to NFT’s involvement in European football, Sorare has taken a dominant position, challenged but largely unimpressed by rival NFT Dapper Labs.

Meanwhile, Socios and its sub-brand Chiliz have dominated the fan token space, making a concerted effort and penetrating the sports market across the Americas, from football club partnerships in South America to UFC partnerships and NBA team deals.

Brand association

Adidas and Nike finally rose to prominence, with the former arguably the more aggressive of the two; Adi has teamed up with BAYC and The Sandbox, and launched their own “wearables”. Nike has jumped into wearables as well, acquiring the RTFKT flagship project OpenSea NFT for Nike’s wearable instrument.

While endemic sports brands like Nike and Adidas seized the opportunity in 2021, not all of the brands and companies that seemed “naturally fit” were able to find an easy path. The prime example lies in gaming, where big players like Ubisoft saw tepid feedback, and other market movers like EA Sports chose to remain more cautious.

Meanwhile, gaming platform DraftKings has been doing a lot of crypto-related activities, partnering with the likes of Tom Brady’s NFT platform,, and pairing with blockchain Polygon to tackle scalability. Fanatics dipped their toes in the sand, technically speaking, as CEO Michael Rubin teamed up with crypto-strength investors to form the athletics-focused NFT marketplace, Candy Digital.

Sports endorsements and advocates

One of the biggest sports stars, Messi, made the crypto headlines this year when he moved from old club Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. Messi has agreed to take an undisclosed portion of his salary at PSG into PSG fan tokens. Messi launched his own NFT launch, titled “Messiverse,” through the NFT Ethernity Marketplace.

The Voice Defenders have also featured across some of the biggest leagues in American sports, including NFL quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who began his career in 2021 with a major partnership with Blockfolio and Odell Beckham Jr. and Tom Brady, Shaquille O’Neal, Aaron Rodgers, and more. In the NBA, top draft pick and now Detroit Piston Kid Cunningham secured a deal with BlockFi, and signed NBA veteran Steve Curry with FTX. Carrie also bought a boring monkey, which showed a great interest in space.

The lead in this mission, though, was Tom Brady, pairing up with FTX and building the aforementioned and featuring some of the biggest athletes in a variety of different sports to release their NFTs.

Other cryptocurrency exchanges have found sporting partners as well, such as the Voyager Digital match with Rob Gronkowski, or Celsius’ deal with Spencer Dinwiddie.

Related reading | NFTs in a nutshell: a weekly review

There's no "clear-cut" winner in sports and crypto this year when it comes to exchanges - but FTX,, and arguably even Coinbase were certainly some of the most aggressive players in sport in 2021. | Source: FTT-USD on

All add-ons

To start 2021, FTX has long held naming rights to the former American Airlines Arena in Miami. As the year went on, the Staples center fell, and the Crypto.Com Arena came to life to close in 2021. Sports NFTs have grown exponentially, with global consulting firm McKinsey & Company teaming up with Sportico to release a deep-dive NFT report stating that “Sports NFTs are not going away. “

Meanwhile, the emergence of Name, Image, and Similarity (NIL) rights for every state in the US opened the door for college athletes to cash in on their names for the first time in history, and crypto and blockchain apps made headlines. like that. However, the lack of broader regulation means that we are still very early on when it comes to opportunities for mass athletes in crypto.

Some interesting altcoins have found unique deals as well, such as Tezos’ pairing with Red Bull’s Formula 1 racing team, and Algorand’s deals with Virtual Le Mans and Drone Racing League.

Although high-profile events often made headlines in 2021, there were some tough challenges as well – European football clubs Barcelona and Manchester City had to pause their internal crypto partners due to the controversy.

2022 is bound to bring a lot of this – we look forward to covering it all for you here at Bitcoinist.

Related reading | Volumes on the OpenSea NFT Skyrocket as the boring monkey yacht club gains momentum

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The writer of this content is not associated or affiliated with any of the parties mentioned in this article. This is not financial advice.

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