Socios, a crypto fan token platform, has signed multi-year marketing partnership deals with 13 new NFL teams.
These deals do not currently have a fan token included, as the NFL currently has restrictions on such partnerships.
Crypto platform Socios hosts dozens of fan tokens for European soccer clubs, along with other sports and esports organizations, and has gradually expanded into the United States via a series of pro team marketing partnerships—albeit without a token attached. Now the firm has added a stack of new NFL teams to its growing pile.
Today, Socios announced multi-year marketing agreements with 13 teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Washington Commanders.
Socios had only previously signed one NFL team, the New England Patriots, in a deal announced last November. That agreement also included Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, which shares an ownership group in Kraft Sports + Entertainment.
Max Rabinovitch, chief strategy officer at Socios and parent company Chiliz, told Decrypt that the 13 new NFL team deals represent the culmination of more than a year of conversations with the American football league itself.
“The best way to look at these deals, as anything, is as a signal that the league is comfortable and interested in us, and was in a good enough place after our discussions,” he said, “where they essentially let us have the privilege of signing with as many teams as we did.”
As with the Patriots and Revolution deals, along with Socios’ partnerships with numerous NBA and NHL teams, these 13 new NFL team marketing deals do not include a fan token.
Socios is known as the leading sports fan token firm in the crypto space, with tokens for soccer giants such as Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Manchester City F.C. The tokens, which are currently minted on a blockchain platform forked from Ethereum, can be traded on the market and come with benefits such as voting on team decisions, exclusive giveaways, and more.
Tokens to come?
Rabinovitch was frank about Socios’ approach with American leagues in general, describing the firm’s strategy as “very slow and conservative” to start. He said that the NFL and other leagues still need to get comfortable with the idea of crypto tokens tied to teams, and wants to establish relationships and begin educating teams and fans in the meantime.
“I don’t necessarily blame the leagues for being very cautious in that approach, because it’s a sea change decision,” he explained. “It’s something where, I think—once they say yes, they have to really be committed to that.”
In March, CNBC reported that the NFL told teams that it was easing restrictions on sponsorship deals with blockchain companies, although it still reportedly prohibits promoting cryptocurrency and specific tokens. The NFL also has its own official NFT collectibles platform in NFL All Day, which is created by NBA Top Shot maker Dapper Labs. An NFT is a type of token that is used to demonstrate ownership over a digital item, such as an image, video clip, or ticket to an event.
“We’re extremely bullish on blockchain technology,” NFL Head of Consumer Products Joe Ruggiero told CNBC last month. “We think that it has a lot of potential to really shape innovation, shape fan engagement over the course of the coming decade.”
Given the restrictions, Rabinovitch said that Socios’ respective deals with each NFL team will be “more conventional brand affinity-type engagements” for now.
Socios plans to relaunch its U.S. app this summer, which will provide opportunities for fans to interact via things like gameday check-ins, competitions for prizes, and voting on team matters—like the Rams’ team walkout songs, for example. In that sense, it’s similar to what token holders can do on the platform, albeit without the crypto token used as an access pass.
Coming to America
Socios will also have elements like stadium signage and digital branding, although the terms vary by team, Rabinovitch said. The platform has been operating largely in Europe over the past few years, but it doesn’t have the same kind of brand awareness here in the States. Similarly, American sports fans don’t have the same knowledge of what crypto fan tokens are.
“We’ll really use it as an entryway to discover what the Socios ecosystem is,” he said, “and be in a place where—regardless of whether the league says yes to a fan token in two months, or in two seasons—we’ll be able to have a relationship with the teams and their fans where they already know who we are and how the platform works.”
In the meantime, Socios is emphasizing the potential for fan rewards as part of these 13 team deals. For example, the Steelers gave away a pair of tickets to this fall’s Hall of Honor induction ceremony to a fan, as delivered by Hall of Fame player Franco Harris, while the Bears signed a season ticket holder to its team via a promotional one-day contract.
The Socios ecosystem is on the verge of a significant upgrade with the upcoming rollout of Chiliz Chain 2.0, a new blockchain platform based on BNB Chain that just recently launched its first testnet.
With the new platform, Chiliz will allow other sports and entertainment firms to build their own blockchain experiences—including NFT marketplaces, play-to-earn games, and even fan tokens—to live alongside the Socios portal. Socios will migrate its own fan tokens to Chiliz Chain 2.0, as well as the CHZ ecosystem token that will power the new platform.
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