French Soccer’s Red Star Debuts Team-Branded Vaccine Pass

By Dominic Massimino

French soccer club Red Star has released branded mobile phone backgrounds that include QR codes to store a fan’s Covid-19 vaccination status. Fans can now show their phone’s home screen to staff at the club’s home venue to verify their vaccination status for entry into the team’s stadium. 

 The activation, called “Pass-Passe,” was created with French advertising company BETC and lets fans choose from a series of backgrounds that display Red Star branding. The QR code syncs with a user’s vaccination status though ToisAntiCovid, the national health pass app released by the French government. 

 As of July, France implemented strict vaccination requirements for public spaces, including cafés, restaurants and shopping centers. The Red Star’s creative vaccine-confirmation phone integration comes ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which will only admit fans who show proof of full vaccination. Purchases Naming Rights to Los Angeles’ Staples Center for Reportedly a Record $700 Million

By Tom Friend

Los Angeles’ Staples Center—home to the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, the WNBA’s Sparks and the NHL’s Kings—will be no more as of Christmas Day. According to reports Tuesday night, the venue will be re-named Arena, another sign that cryptocurrency is ensconced in American society.

An official announcement will likely come as soon as Wednesday. According to the Los Angeles Times, the 20-year naming rights deal between Staples Center owner Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and could be worth more than $700 million—considered the largest of its kind in the U.S.

“In the next few years, people will look back at this moment as the moment when crypto crossed the chasm into the mainstream,’’ chief executive Kris Marszalek told the Times Tuesday night from his home in Hong Kong. “This is just such a brilliant move from the guys at AEG, because the next decade belongs to crypto. And this positions L.A., and this particular venue, right at the center of it.’’ reported Tuesday night that AEG—which purchased the naming rights back from Staples in 2019— was on the lookout for a new arena sponsor over the recent summer and that “began hammering out a deal that involves several experiential and philanthropic components.’’

According to the L.A. Times, blockchain will certainly become thematic at the arena, with a likely integration of “cryptocurrency payments.’’ The newspaper also reported that will become the Lakers and Kings official crypto partner and that, at the front of the venue, there will be a “dedicated activation space featuring crypto-centric interactive experiences for sports or music fans.’’

Marszalek went on to say that Singapore-based hopes to become a “top-20 brand in the next 3 or 4 years, alongside names like Nike or Apple.’’ The company has already delved into sports, finalizing separate deals with UFC and the esports franchise Fnatic. According to the Times, the company also has an NFT division, crypto payment software and has seen revenue grow 2,000% in the past year. 

Previously, in March, the cryptocurrency powerhouse exchange FTX inked a 19-year, $135 million agreement for the naming rights at the Miami Heat home venue, formerly American Airlines Arena. FTX has long coveted a space in American sports culture and has a deal, as well, with MLB.

As for, its logo will first appear on the building for the nationally-televised Christmas Day game between the Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets. According to reports, all Staples Center signage will disappear by June of 2022.

Gaming Society to Launch Prediction Games for WNBA, NWSL Through GameOn

By Andrew Cohen

GameOn Entertainment Technologies has agreed to provide its white-labeled prediction platform to Gaming Society, a betting content and gaming startup backed by Kevin Garnett. The deal will see Gaming Society launch free-to-play prediction games for women’s sports leagues such as the WNBA and NWSL.

The partnership builds on Gaming Society’s Bet on Women campaign that launched with the WNBPA in August. The company also plans to launch free-to-play games for the Women’s Super League and the Premier Hockey Federation.

 The competitions will be available on Gaming Society’s website, which also offers videos and educational content related to sports betting. Garnett launched the company with Jaymee Messler, who co-founded The Players’ Tribune. Former WNBA player Marissa Coleman is Gaming Society’s VP of business development. 

 GameOn and Gaming Society will share revenue generated from its free-to-play contests, expected to come through sponsorships and marketing deals with sportsbooks. GameOn has previously made prediction games for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indian cricket matches.

Houston Rockets Receive Bitcoin Payment for NYDIG Sponsorship

By Andrew Cohen

Financial services firm NYDIG has signed a sponsorship with the Houston Rockets that will pay the NBA team in Bitcoin. Suites at Toyota Center, the Rockets’ home arena, will be called “Bitcoin Suites by NYDIG’’ as part of the deal.  

The Rockets will create Bitcoin educational programming and community initiatives with NYDIG, while the company will also be promoted across the team’s social and digital platforms. NYDIG’s logo will also appear on-court near the baseline during Rockets’ home games. 

“Partnering with NYDIG allows us to leverage the growth of Bitcoin to provide creative rewards and payment options to our fanbase and associates,” Rockets president of business operations Gretchen Sheirr said in a statement.

Landry’s, a restaurant chain owned by Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, also recently partnered with NYDIG to implement its Bitcoin loyalty rewards program.

NYDIG is not the first cryptocurrency sponsor for the Rockets, as Chinese Bitcoin mining company AntPool partnered with the team in 2018. Last month, Coinbase became the first crypto company to sign a league-level sponsorship with the NBA. 

Former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick To Play Leading Role in Ergatta’s National Ad Debut

By Joe Lemire

Activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is starring in the first national ad campaign for Ergatta, a rowing machine that is designed to drive participation through game-based fitness content and communal competition.  

 Ergatta, a graduate of the 2019 Techstars Sports Accelerator class, has raised $35 million in investment, including a $30 million Series A round announced back in April. Kaepernick has been a company advisor since 2020, and Egatta members can now partake in a three-month training program inspired by the former San Francisco 49ers signal-caller. 

 Ergatta is also formally partnering with Kaepernick’s foundation, the Know Your Rights Camp, which seeks to advance Black and Brown communities. The company is donating rowers and dollars to community centers in KYRC’s partner cities. One of the foundation’s 10 pillars is the “right to be healthy” and a mission to encourage daily fitness.

 “I was initially drawn to the Ergatta team as an investor, advisor and brand partner because they’re innovators,” Kaepernick said in a statement. “They were challenging the model of group fitness classes with games and competitions—something that really resonated with me.”

Whoop to Expand Research, Products for Women Athletes; Sloane Stephens Among the Advocates

By Dominic Massimino

Wearable fitness company Whoop has formed its new Women’s Performance Collective to further the company’s research and product development effort, specifically to benefit women’s health and athletics. 

The founding class of the WPC, which will feature a new group of female sports experts every year, includes tennis star Sloane Stephens, CrossFit athlete Annie Thorisdottir and Olympic runner Colleen Quigley, among other women in professional sports. 

Whoop has also partnered with Voice In Sport, a women’s athletics-focused media company. The deal will see 100 female college athletes receive Whoop devices and Voice In Sport memberships. The companies will also create content that highlights sleep, strain, recovery and menstrual cycle data collected by Whoop. 

Whoop partnered with the WTA earlier this month to let athletes wear Whoop’s wrist strap during matches. The company also has a deal with the LPGA Tour

NBA Star Devin Booker Signs Astro Gaming Sponsorship, Will Play ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ With the Public

By Andrew Cohen

Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker has joined video game equipment company Astro Gaming as a brand ambassador. Booker’s video game livestreams on his Twitch channel will now be sponsored by Astro Gaming, and he’ll wear the manufacturer’s headset while streaming. 

 Booker’s first Twitch stream as part of the new deal will be Thursday. The two-time NBA All-Star will be joined by his brother Davon while they play “Call of Duty: Warzone” alongside other popular streamers in the Call of Duty community.

 During the stream, Booker will reveal a new glow-in-the-dark headset that he helped design with Astro Gaming. A few editions of the headset will be given away to viewers in the audience. Booker launched his own Twitch channel in 2019 and won last year’s NBA 2K Players Tournament that aired on ESPN while the NBA season was paused due to Covid-19.

OneTeam Partners, Wasserman Invest in FanAI to Track Sponsorship Value

By Andrew Cohen

Sponsorship analytics platform FanAI has raised $3 million in additional Series A funding. Athlete marketing firms OneTeam Partners (co-founded by the NFLPA and MLBPA) and Wasserman led the round alongside Tech Coast Angels.

 FanAI collects audience data on ticket sales, digital spending behavior and viewing exposure across TV and streaming to inform brands on their sponsorship ROI. Marketers can compare data relative to how their campaigns perform with different teams—and view sponsorship ROI figures from competing brands.

 “We’re committed to innovating the metrics needed to accurately reflect human experience and consumer behaviors, and we’re excited to unlock the competitive advantage this FanAI partnership will give to Wasserman clients in an ever more competitive market,” Wasserman EVP of global insights Shelley Pisarra said in a statement.

 The funding brings FanAI’s total Series A investment to $11 million after it secured $8 million in 2019. That round was led by Japanese conglomerate Marubeni and included investment from Sterling VC, the venture fund of the Wilpon family that previously owned the New York Mets. 

NFL Will Host Madden Tournament for HBCU Students, Plans Final at SoFi Stadium During Super Bowl Week

By Andrew Cohen

The NFL has opened registration for its second annual Madden esports tournament exclusively for students from all 48 Historically Black College and Universities. HBCU students have until Dec. 3 to register for the tournament’s online qualifier event, with the finals to be held at SoFi Stadium. 

The top 16 finalists will be invited to the NFL’s Los Angeles headquarters at Hollywood Park, where they’ll have the chance to shadow employees and network with staff from the league and Electronic Arts. Esports organizer Gaming Community Network will manage the tournament’s operations. 

The top two finalists will advance to play a Madden match at SoFi Stadium —where the 70,000 square foot video board is the largest in pro sports. The match will air on the league’s Twitch and YouTube channels on Feb. 12, the day before SoFi Stadium hosts the Super Bowl. Cash prizes will be awarded to the two finalists. 

“We want to expand the League’s efforts to create inclusive opportunities for the next generation of talent with partners like EA providing not only a chance for students to compete, but also the chance to learn the business of football through practical learning and shadowing experiences,” Natara Holloway, the NFL’s VP of football strategy and business development, said in a statement. 

Drone Racing League Launches First Mobile Game With Skillz

By Andrew Cohen

Gaming platform Skillz has partnered with the Drone Racing League to launch the league’s first mobile game titled Drone Racing Arcade, which can be downloaded free on iOS and Android devices.

Skillz—also working with the NFL to launch a mobile game after previously securing investment from the league—will host Drone Racing Arcade tournaments that offer prizes starting in December. Users can compete in head-to-head competitions on Drone Racing Arcade, in which they tap their screen to fly drones through courses.

The mobile game joins the DRL video game launched last year on Xbox, Playstation, and the Epic Games Store. The DRL will host its championship race at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 5 in Las Vegas.

The league’s 2021-22 season is being held in a hybrid format, with some races being held remotely via the league’s drone racing simulator and others taking place in-person at venues such as Allianz Field in Minnesota and FedEx Forum, home to the Memphis Grizzlies. Races will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network and Twitter.