October 22, 2021

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Front Office Sports


Tennessee Titans players are sporting T-shirts that feature dogs up for adoption during media interviews this week. Even better, the NFL team is covering $100,000 in adoption fees at local shelters in Nashville and Kansas City — this week’s opponent.

Miki Yoshihito/Design: Alex Brooks

Japanese investment firm SoftBank launched its second Vision Fund in 2019, and since its inception, CEO Masayoshi Son and his team have invested heavily in sports and entertainment.

Vision Fund 2 — an encore to the $100 billion technology-focused Vision Fund 1 — raised an initial $40 billion of capital the year it debuted.

Funding rounds in the sports and entertainment space led by the newer fund total $2.6 billion so far in 2021. Here are some of the standouts:

  • SoftBank participated in a $100 million funding round for Fanatics-owned Candy Digital — the developer of Major League Baseball’s NFT marketplace.
  • It was the sole investor in a $400 million Vuori deal that valued the activewear company at $4 billion.
  • In August, it joined a $325 million round for Fanatics that valued the company at $18 billion.
  • Also on the list: a $680 million round for NFT soccer platform Sorare, a $300 million round for fitness wearables maker Whoop, and a $220 million round for at-home fitness company Tempo — all led by SoftBank.

Vision Fund 1 saw several high-profile tech companies — DoorDash, Slack, and Uber — go public. Vision Fund 2 could produce similar results for its sports-related businesses.

Want to learn more? Check out Front Office Sports Insights for the full analysis.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks

Crypto exchange FTX announced a massive funding round, bringing in $420.7 million at a $25 billion valuation. 

The company has leaned heavily into sports to introduce its brand to a broader audience.

“Diehard sports fans are typically going to be males, 18 to 35, with disposable income, which aligns nicely with the demographic of your typical retail trader,” FTX head of partnerships Sina Nader told Front Office Sports.

  • FTX owns naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena on a 19-year, $135 million deal.
  • In August, the company struck a 10-year, $17.5 million naming rights deal for UC Berkeley’s football field, which will be known as FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium.
  • Esports team TSM rebranded to TSM FTX after signing a $210 million partnership with the exchange.
  • In June, FTX announced equity deals with Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen and became the first brand to advertise on a patch worn by MLB umpires.

Nader mentioned that FTX’s relationship with MLB is “long-term” and that “lots more” is in the works, and noted that the company wants to bring more women into crypto.

FTX launched a sports-focused NFT marketplace earlier in October and NBA star Steph Curry took a stake in the exchange the month prior.

Formula 1/Design: Alex Brooks

After a two-year absence, Formula 1 is making its way back to North America for the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday. 

The sold-out race at Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas, is expected to have 360,000 fans in attendance.

Liberty Media acquired F1 for $4.6 billion in 2017, and the auto racing championship has been on the rise since. 

  • 55% of F1 fans say the sport is in better health than five years ago, per Nielsen.
  • F1 signed a 10-year deal in April to host the Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium.
  • The series has seen recent viewership on ESPN up 53% compared to 2020.
  • In June, Crypto.com signed a five-year, $100 million partnership with the racing series.

Liberty Media — which also owns the Atlanta Braves and SiriusXMposted $2.16 billion in revenue in Q2 2021, a 15% increase year-over-year. 

Its F1 segment generated $501 million in revenue during the quarter, bouncing back nicely from a pandemic-afflicted $24 million haul in Q2 2020.

F1 wants to bring races to more cities across the U.S., including Las Vegas and potentially a “dream” race in Manhattan.

SoulCycle/Design: Alex Brooks

Equinox is reportedly in talks to go public through a merger with Ares Acquisition after discussions fell through with Golden State Warriors minority owner Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital SPAC.

The latter would’ve valued the parent company of SoulCycle above $7.5 billion.

Ares Acquisition raised $1 billion in its IPO in February. The SPAC is backed by Ares Management, which currently has $262 billion in assets under management.

Equinox’s high-end gym membership fees started at $2,200 pre-pandemic, contributing to more than $1 billion in revenue each year. Then the company lost around $350 million last year as more people stayed home.

  • Equinox began selling $2,500 stationary bikes last year with a $39.99 per-month subscription to stream SoulCycle classes from home.
  • It also licensed the entire Universal Music Group catalog for its at-home fitness app Variis in January and announced partnerships with Lorde, Calvin Harris, and The Supremes in August.

These moves push Equinox further into a rapidly growing connected fitness market. 

Discussions with Ares, however, are not finalized and may not result in a transaction.

  • Best Employers in Sports is back! Whether it’s great leadership, commitment to D&I, employee wellbeing, or social endeavors, the BES Award looks to recognize organizations that do right by their team. The survey is open now through 11/12! Click here to submit an application.
  • U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow said the country is considering bidding to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2027 or 2031.
  • The NFL says viewership increased 11% through Week 6 compared to the same period last year, with games averaging 16.6 million viewers.
  • 2021 has brought an explosion in the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and blockchain technology. In our latest webinar, October 28 at 1 p.m. ET, hear from FTX Head of Brand Partnerships to learn how they have become one of the leaders in the sports and crypto landscape. Register now.
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