Catalina Fragoso | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
PALM BEACH, Fla. – The NFL’s annual meetings kicked off Sunday, and they are already generating some big announcements.
The league said Monday that its 2024 draft would be held in Detroit, and teams are primed to start seeking blockchain sponsorship deals this week.
NFL sponsorship revenue reached nearly $2 billion for the 2021 season, and blockchain deals should increase that figure next season. Last week, the league said it would loosen its rules against teams making deals with companies that work with blockchain, the ledger technology that undergirds cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
Teams are still banned from cryptocurrency sponsorships, however.
“This is a little bit what we can learn from the marketplace versus us going out and acting like we know everything,” NFL Chief Revenue Officer Rennie Anderson said. “We have the ability to let the marketplace tell us what they think about themselves in the category.”
Don’t expect CBD sponsorships and jersey patch advertisements to contribute to the NFL’s revenue any time soon, either.
Last month, the NFL pledged $1 million to the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina to study the impact of CBD on pain management and concussions in football players. CBD— short for cannabidiol — is a compound found in cannabis plants.
Still, the league restricts cannabis use and says it will not allow NFL players to participate in studies. NFL media partners aren’t allowed to run CBD ads during NFL games.
Anderson said the NFL would take a “measured approach” to CBD but added the league isn’t close to adding sponsorships though CBD is regulated.
“It’s not on the table for discussion,” she said of CBD sponsorships. “And I don’t know when it will be.”
The NFL is also resisting the trend toward jersey patch advertisements. “Why do we need it?” Anderson asked.
MLB became the latest U.S. pro league to include the asset, which could bring baseball clubs $11 million per year. The NBA installed patches in 2017 and generated roughly more than $150 million. And the NHL is further rolling out its patch program in 2023.
“It’s great that the other leagues do that because they can test it out for us,” she added. “But I can’t imagine (Los Angeles Rams quarterback) Matthew Stafford hoisting the (Vince) Lombardi Trophy with a third-party brand on his chest. The need isn’t there.”
The league plans to roll out its newest asset to potential partners this week, Anderson told CNBC.
Last week, the league announced NFL clubs are permitted to seek blockchain sponsorships with platforms like Coinbase and FTX. Anderson said the assets could lure multiple partners to hold rights, including the NFL’s “official digital wallet” and “official blockchain” partners. She called the category an “endless opportunity” but added the NFL is still learning about the technology.
In addition to its cryptocurrency applications, blockchain tech effectively gives virtual collectibles like nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, unique and nonhackable certificates of authenticity.
“I think we’ll learn a lot about the use cases about how it can transform our future,” Anderson said.
When it comes to cryptocurrency, though, Anderson echoed other NFL executives about its future. Though leagues like the NBA appear all-in on crypto, Anderson said the NFL would “protect the business” and ease into the sector. That could come as government officials figure out regulations around crypto.
“We don’t have to be the first,” said Anderson. “But when we do something, we’ve got to get it right.”
The league announced Monday that NFL draft would be held in April 24 at the Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.
Detroit was a finalist for the event in 2022 NFL Draft, which will be located in Las Vegas. The 2023 draft will be held in Kansas City.
Last year, the NFL Draft was held in Cleveland and generated had an economic impact for the region of roughly $42 million, according to the Cleveland Sports Commission. That’s down from the 2019 NFL Draft held in Nashville, which generated more than $200 million. The 2020 NFL Draft was virtual due to the pandemic.
Asked to project the economic impact of the 2024 event, Lions CEO Rod Wood didn’t reveal specific figures but said “it’ll be significant.”
The franchise was also selected as the featured team for the 2022 “Hard Knocks” documentary series on HBO. The season premieres on Aug. 9.