The National Football League has signed a massive US$110 billion deal over ten years, marking one of the most significant deals in the sports industry, while some of the biggest leagues and clubs in the world, too, have flexed their muscles after signing huge deals.
After spending much of the last two years discussing and analysing the impact of the COVID pandemic and how the sports industry should prepare itself for a barren run, 2021 has challenged that belief, with rights holders, cryptocurrency firms and state-owned investment funds signing contracts worth more than anything seen before in the industry.
Be it the new domestic broadcast deals signed by some of the world’s biggest sporting leagues, cryptocurrency platforms throwing crazy amounts of money at anyone who would pay them any attention, or state-owned investment funds buying social institutions to clean their hands, a substantial amount of money has changed hands over the past 12 months.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the biggest sporting deals that have happened over the past 12 months.
The UFC and Crypto.com (US$175 million)
In June 2021, cryptocurrency exchange Crypto.com announced that it had entered a partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as the firm’s global fight kit sponsor.
According to reputed publications like CNBC and Sportico.com, the partnership between Crypto.com and the UFC is the biggest sponsorship deal in UFC history. People familiar with the matter have estimated the deal to be around US$175 million over a ten-year period.
TeamViewer and Manchester United (US$327 million)
Global football giants Manchester United announced TeamViewer before the start of the 2021/22 season as their new principal shirt sponsor in a deal reportedly worth US$327 million—spread across five seasons—until the end of the 2025/26 season.
Although the current deal is worth less than United’s previous one with Chevrolet (US$559m), given the club’s recent on-field struggles, signing a US$327m deal in the middle of a global pandemic is still an impressive piece of business.
The TeamViewer sponsorship became the biggest shirt-only deal in Premier League’s history and was—at the time—the biggest sponsorship deal of any kind signed by a sports team since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Top 10 Countdown
#10 The UFC and DraftKings (US$350 million)
March was a busy period in terms of sporting deals, as following Manchester United’s shirt sponsorship deal and Serie A’s broadcasting deal, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) agreed a wide-ranging deal that saw DraftKings become the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s first-ever official sportsbook and daily fantasy partner in the US and Canada.
According to ESPN, the five-year deal is worth US$350 million. Sports Business Journal (SBJ) reports that the breakdown is US$250 million for media and marketing obligations, plus an additional US$100 million in cash rights fees.
As part of the deal, the UFC shows DraftKings betting odds in its fight broadcasts, with the betting and fantasy brand also becoming the presenting partner of the ‘UFC Fight Clock’, the promotion’s new proprietary time-keeping system.
#9 FTX and Team SoloMid (US$210 million)
US esports organisation Team SoloMid (TSM) announced a multi-year naming rights partnership with cryptocurrency trading platform FTX worth US$210 million in June 2021, making the deal the largest of its kind in competitive gaming history.
In addition to naming rights, TSM FTX embarked on a new set of ‘industry-leading initiatives’ over a five-year period as part of the partnership, which is set to see considerable investment in esports and gaming.
Additionally, TSM FTX distributes cryptocurrency to each of its players and employees while also purchasing US$1 million in FTT, FTX’s native token.
#8 The NHL with The Walt Disney Company and Turner Sports (US$625 million)
The National Hockey League’s new seven-year deal sees the end of NBC’s 16-year relationship with the league. Sports Business Journal reported that NBC pulled out of the race after the league rejected its extension bid worth less than US$100 million a year.
In March 2021, the NHL and The Walt Disney Company announced a seven-year deal for the league’s main broadcast package worth a reported US$400 million a year. A month later, Turner Sports secured the NHL’s second US media rights package in a seven-year deal starting from the 2021/22 season. The deal is worth US$225 million a year according to Sports Business Journal.
According to SBJ, the NHL’s media rights agreements for the next seven-year cycle will see the league bring in US$625 million a season, which is more than double of what it received from NBC and Disney Streaming Services under the previous arrangements.
#7 AEG and Crypto.com (US$700 million)
Staples Center, the multipurpose venue which plays host to the Los Angeles Lakers, Sparks and Kings, has had its name changed after owner AEG struck a major new 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, has seen the venue become the Crypto.com Arena from 25 December 2021.
Crypto.com is also 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.
#6 The NBA and Sportradar (US$1 billion)
The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced an expansive multi-year partnership with Sportradar for the distribution of data and live game video to betting operators in the US as well as internationally in November 2021.
The eight-year contract kicks in with the start of the 2023/24 season, covering the NBA, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the developmental G League.
According to Sportico, the agreement is worth US$1 billion and will see the NBA receive a three percent equity stake in Sportradar for the duration of the deal. That stake is held in Class A ordinary shares on a fully diluted basis.
Throughout 2021, Sportradar has signed data deals with rights holders such as UEFA, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the International Cricket Council (ICC). Having also signed a similar agreement with the National Hockey League (NHL) in June 2021, Sportradar now holds data partnerships with two of the four major US sports leagues.
#5 NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform and WWE (US$1 billion)
With much of the world still stuck in lockdown, it took a little bit of time for the sports industry to awaken from its festive slumber. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, snapped up the exclusive US Rights for the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) network’s over-the-top (OTT) platform in January 2021.
An official announcement from WWE described the deal as a ‘multi-year agreement’, with The Wall Street Journal reporting the contract to be valued at more than US$1 billion over five years.
Peacock’s tie-up with WWE arrived just days after NBCUniversal said it would shut down NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) by the end of 2021. The move will look to beef out USA Network’s programming and help grow Peacock’s subscribers, with the WWE Network deal a clear sign of NBCUniversal’s ambitions in the streaming space.
#4 RPSG and CVC buying two new IPL franchises: US$1.7 billion
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed the sale of two new Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises for a combined fee of more than US$1.7 billion in October 2021. Indian-based conglomerate RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group (RPSG Group) acquired the Lucknow-based franchise for US$964 million, while venture capital giant CVC purchased the Ahmedabad expansion team for around US$736 million.
Goenka previously owned the Rising Pune Supergiant, which played in the IPL for two years while the Rajasthan Royals and the Chennai Super Kings were suspended for their roles in a fixing and betting scandal.
CVC has been investing heavily in the sports space in the last couple of years, finding the most success in rugby union, having acquired stakes in the Six Nations annual international tournament, the inter-continental United Rugby Championship (URC) provincial club competition and the English top-flight Premiership.
The deal sees CVC become the first western private equity group to take outright ownership of an IPL team.
#3 The NBC and The Premier League (US$2.7 billion)
A US$2.7 billion bid was enough to keep English football’s top-flight on NBC for another six years, with the Comcast-owned company almost doubling the amount it paid for its current contract in 2016. This new deal was announced in November 2021.
The agreement with NBC covers all 380 Premier League matches in a season and runs until 2028. The English top-flight has seen strong broadcast ratings in the US even as others suffered during the pandemic.
This season, NBC’s broadcasts are averaging 609,000 viewers, the highest mark to this point since the 2015/16 campaign and up 14 percent from last year.
The new deal goes some way to offsetting the £2 billion (US$2.7 billion) Premier League clubs have lost since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the next three years, the Premier League will filter £1.6 billion (US$2.15 billion) down the English football pyramid, having announced in November 2021 a further £25 million (US$33.5 million) of COVID-impact funding to clubs in the third, fourth and semi-professional fifth tier.
#2 Serie A and DAZN (US$2.95 billion)
Sports streaming service DAZN ousted Sky to become Italian football’s main domestic broadcast partner in March 2021. DAZN secured one of its biggest rights deals after clubs in Italy’s Serie A finally voted to award the company a domestic contract worth more than €2.5 billion.
The deal, which runs for the next three seasons, covers all Serie A matches between 2021 and 2024, including exclusive rights for seven out of ten fixtures per matchday.
Serie A had been hoping to achieve an 18 per cent uplift on its current €973m-per-year deal, but none of the bidders reached the €1.15bn-per-season mark which was being sought as a minimum.
#1 The NFL with CBS, ESPN/ABC, NBC, Fox and Amazon (US$110 billion)
The NFL signed a long-term broadcast rights agreement with its domestic media partners CBS, ESPN/ABC, NBC, Fox and Amazon in March 2021. The new deal, which covers TV and digital platforms as well as additional rights, runs for 11 years—from 2023-2033—and is reported to be worth around US$105 billion, according to Sportico.com.
As per the deal, CBS, Fox and NBC are set to pay more than US$2 billion apiece to retain their packages, according to The New York Times, which reports that ESPN—whose deal begins in 2022 because its current contract ends a year earlier than the others—will pay about US$2.7 billion a year.
Adding in Amazon’s contract, which Sportico reports to be worth US$1.32 billion per year, the NFL will earn around US$110 billion from its domestic media partners between 2023 and 2033.
CBS, FOX and NBC will each televise three Super Bowls during the term of the agreements: CBS has the 2023, 2027 and 2031 editions; Fox has 2024, 2028 and 2032; NBC has 2025, 2029 and 2033. ESPN/ABC will air the 2026 and 2030 games.