It is the cryptocurrency firms who have splashed the cash on sponsorship and endorsement deals, while the likes of Nike, Puma and Adidas have maintained their stronghold over the market.
Much of the discourse around sports sponsorship in recent times has tended to focus on betting/crypto brands and whether or not they should be allowed to advertise to fans through the teams and athletes they love.
In the UK, there is an ongoing government review into gambling laws amid calls for stricter legislation, with nine of England’s twenty top-flight football clubs currently promoting a betting brand on their shirt, while in contrast, in the US, things are gathering pace, with sports betting partnerships popping up on an almost daily basis as major league teams take advantage of relaxed rules.
As you can guess by now, this list is packed with betting and cryptocurrency brands. This year, the number of apparel and accessories brands have halved to four premium players squabbling for top sponsorship deals — Nike, Adidas, Puma and Rolex, while brands like Reebok and New Balance have dropped off considerably when you look at their business in the sponsorship and endorsement market over the past 12 months.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the biggest sponsorship deals of 2021.
The Biggest Deals
In June 2021, it was announced that Formula One was partnering with cryptocurrency exchange Crypto.com. Moreover, Formula One’s latest feature, the Sprint race, made its debut in 2021 after much anticipation.
Formula One announced that Crypo.com, the world’s fastest growing crypto platform, would be the series’ global partner in June 2021. The five-year deal is reported to be worth more than US$100 million.
The agreement saw Crypto.com get brand presence at Formula One events and receive trackside slots for the races. Crypto.com also became the Official Cryptocurrency Sponsor and NFT Partner of Formula One.
The partnership has also seen Crypto.com unveil the ‘Overtake Award’, which it sponsors. The award goes to the driver who completes the most number of overtakes throughout the season, with Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel taking the inaugural award.
In March 2021, Manchester United announced global tech company TeamViewer as their principal shirt partner in a five-year deal. United’s contract with TeamViewer is valued at US$325m and will run until the end of the 2025-26 season.
Apart from shirt sponsorship, TeamViewer also works with the club to provide innovative Augmented Reality-based solutions to provide United fans worldwide remote access to their club’s home ground, Old Trafford. Several other fan engagement activities are also expected to be organised over the course of this partnership.
Although the current deal is nowhere close to the figure quoted in United’s previous deal with Chevrolet (US$559m), it is still the biggest shirt-only deal in Premier League history.
MLS and Procter & Gamble (P&G)
April saw Major League Soccer (MLS) sign a multi-year sponsorship deal with consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) ahead of its 2021 season.
The financial terms of the agreement were not made public, but CNBC reported that P&G would pay the North American league ‘US$80 million to US$100 million’ over a five-year period to promote brands such as Gillette, Old Spice, Crest, Oral B, Dawn, Charmin and Bounty.
As per the deal, P&G also sponsors the Leagues Cup, an annual competition between MLS and Liga MX clubs, and the Campeones Cup, which sees the Mexican champions take on the winners of the MLS Cup. The agreement also covers the MLS All-Star Game.
Phoenix Mercury and Bally’s Corporation
The Phoenix Mercury named Bally’s Corporation as their exclusive sports betting partner in June 2021 in a deal described as the ‘largest official team sponsorship’ in the history of women’s sports.
The financial terms of the 15-year contract were not disclosed, but Deadspin reported that the deal with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchise was worth US$66 million over the duration of the agreement.
Bally’s joined Fry’s Food Stores, PayPal and Verizon as one of the Mercury’s changemaker partners, which are committed to diversity, equality and inclusion.
The UFC and Crypto.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) struck a long-term deal with cryptocurrency platform Crypto.com in July 2021 for the latter to become the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s first-ever global fight kit partner.
The agreement, which is worth more US$175 million over ten years according to CNBC, secured Crypto.com branding on fight kits worn by UFC athletes and their corner team in the competition. The platform was also named as the UFC’s first official cryptocurrency platform partner.
In addition, Crypto.com procured branded presence inside the Octagon during all UFC pay-per-view (PPV) events and the Contender Series. The brand is now also integrated into UFC content on both linear and digital platforms, including live broadcasts, PPVs, and UFC-owned social media channels.
Drone Racing League and Algorand
A New York-based startup—focused on drone racing—scored a multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with cryptocurrency platform Algorand in September 2021 in a move that shone more light on both the tech-centric sports league and the crypto industry’s growing role in sports marketing.
The deal is reportedly worth around US$100 million over a five-year period. As a part of the deal, the league releases tickets to racing events, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other fan collectables on Algorand, with Algorand having the naming rights to the Drone Racing League’s championship series.
In addition, programmers, coders and crypto developers are welcomed to Algorand hackathon events staged at DRL races globally, while the drone racing series also builds a Digital Drone Racing championship into Algorand’s network.
AEG and Crypto.com
Staples Center, the multipurpose venue which plays host to the Los Angeles Lakers, Sparks and Kings, had its name changed after owner AEG struck a major sponsorship deal with the Crypto.com exchange platform in November 2021.
The 20-year partnership, which the LA Times says is worth US$700 million over its duration, saw the venue become the Crypto.com Arena from December 25, 2021.
Crypto.com also became the official cryptocurrency partner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Los Angeles Lakers and the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Los Angeles Kings under the new agreement.
That sponsorship figure, unconfirmed by either party, would make it the most valuable arena naming rights deal in history, surpassing the US$625 million SoFi paid to put its name on the home of the National Football League’s (NFL) Los Angeles Rams.