• FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange, has signed a seven-year sponsorship agreement with the League of Legends Esports Series

  • FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange, announced today a seven-year partnership with Riot Games to sponsor its League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) franchised league in North America.

    Beginning this weekend, FTX branding will appear throughout LCS broadcasts as the league’s “official cryptocurrency exchange.” FTX will specifically sponsor broadcast segments related to the in-game gold currency, such as the current amount of gold accumulated by each player and team in each match. The league’s Most Improved Player Award will also be sponsored by the exchange.

    Riot Games’ seven-year partnership is the company’s first with a cryptocurrency exchange, as well as the longest sponsorship agreement Riot has signed for any of its regional esports leagues to date. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, and Riot did not respond to our request for more information.

    FTX made a big splash in the esports industry in June when it signed a 10-year, $210 million sponsorship deal with popular esports club Team SoloMid (TSM), which would rebrand as TSM FTX as part of the agreement. TSM competes in the LCS and is widely regarded as the organization’s most valuable and visible esports team. According to Riot, the 2019 World Championship drew more than 44 million peak concurrent viewers, making League of Legends one of the most popular games in esports.

    FTX’s $210 Million Esports Deal Is Not As Valuable As It Appearances

    However, shortly after the announcement, it was revealed that TSM FTX was restricted by Riot Games from sponsoring cryptocurrency in both League of Legends and VALORANT. TSM is unable to activate the FTX sponsorship or use the full “TSM FTX” name during broadcasts for official competitions for those games due to these restrictions. The team confirmed that those restrictions were written into the partnership agreement.

    According to Chris Greeley, Riot Games’ Head of Esports for North America and Oceania, the new LCS deal with FTX does not change the activation restrictions associated with TSM’s FTX sponsorship, as well as other teams that have cryptocurrency sponsors. Riot’s agreement permits the league to remove digital FTX branding from international LCS broadcasts in countries where cryptocurrency advertising is restricted.

    “Our collaboration with FTX does not change our league-wide stance on cryptocurrency exchange sponsors,” Greeley said in an emailed statement to us. “LCS activations with FTX can be removed from broadcast when necessary in regions where cryptocurrency advertising is prohibited. A sponsor who appears on clothing or other non-digital activation cannot.”

    Surprisingly, the terms of use for Riot Games’ software APIs and development tools strictly prohibit third-party developers from using cryptocurrency or blockchain technology. Despite Riot’s newfound embrace of a cryptocurrency exchange, LCS Publishing Manager Michael Sherman tweeted today that there are “no plans to update this policy.”

    Exchange of rivals Coinbase recently announced a sponsorship agreement with global tournament operator ESL to sponsor StarCraft II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitions, and it also sponsored team organization Evil Geniuses (which competes in the LCS) this spring. Meanwhile, Uniswap, a decentralized exchange, sponsored the esports club Team Secret in June with a $112,000 grant decided by governance token holders.

    FTX’s sponsorship spending spree hasn’t stopped with esports: in April, the exchange agreed to pay the NBA’s Miami Heat $135 million over 19 years for naming rights to its arena. In June, the company also signed a five-year sponsorship agreement with Major League Baseball, which includes a patch on umpires’ uniforms as well as other promotional activations.

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