Tezos Blockchain Becomes Manchester United Training Kit Sponsor

By Dominic Massimino

Tezos has become the official blockchain and training kit partner of Manchester United in a multi-year deal. The deal will see Tezos pay more than $27 million per year, according to The Athletic

Tezos branding will appear on both the men’s and women’s team training kits, beginning before the club’s match this weekend against Southampton. Tezos will also make donations to the club in tez—the company’s native cryptocurrency—and work with the club to offer blockchain-based fan experiences.

Promoting itself as an energy efficient blockchain with a “proof-of-stake” model, Tezos reflects the club’s broader eco-friendly approach, according to United’s CEO of alliances and partnerships Victoria Timpson. Tezos also has sponsorship deals with the New York Mets and FloSports.

“We are especially pleased to be partnering with one of the most eco-friendly blockchains, using technology that is energy-efficient, limits carbon emissions and lowers costs, consistent with the Club’s wider efforts to promote environmental sustainability,” Timpson said in a statement.

New York’s Record-Setting Mobile Betting Debut Also Sees a Surge in Problem Gambling Calls

By Andrew Cohen

New Yorkers dialed the state’s problem gambling hotline 91 times more in January compared to the same month last year. The 46% uptick in calls came during the first month of legal online sports betting in N.Y., which had a single-month U.S. record of $1.6 billion in sports bets placed on mobile phones. 

“With the start of Mobile Sports Betting and the proliferation of gambling ads and giveaways, we anticipate the numbers of individuals and families needing help will continue to increase,” New York Council on Problem Gambling executive director Jim Maney told PlayNY.

New Yorkers made 198 problem gambling calls to the NY HOPEline in Jan. 2021 compared to 289 last month, according to data shared to PlayNY from a state government spokesperson. The state generated $57.6 million in taxes from online sports betting last month and $113 million in revenue for the sportsbooks. FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, PointsBet, WynnBET and Bet Rivers are the seven sportsbooks currently operating mobile apps in N.Y.

New York sports channel MSG Networks this week launched “Bet-A-Palooza presented by DraftKings,” a slate of new betting programming that includes a betting-themed game broadcast airing on the MSG+ and MSG GO streaming platform. That simulcast debuted with last night’s New York Knicks game against the Golden State Warriors and will return for Saturday’s Knicks game, as well.

“We must address this issue in real time and not 1 year or 2 years down the road. The clock is ticking because now that Mobile Sports Betting has started, there are serious discussions regarding the addition of 3 downstate casino licenses and right after that will come iGaming, eSports, betting kiosks at racetracks and arenas like Madison Square Garden,” Maney wrote in a letter, in which he asked New York State to give $15 million toward problem gambling support.

The American Gaming Association estimates that 31 million Americans will wager a total of $7.6 billion on Super Bowl LVI. While Sunday’s Bengals-Rams matchup will feature an all-out blitz of ads from legal sports betting apps, problem gambling departments are concerned about betting-like free games being marketed towards kids. For example, the NFL and Nickelodeon’s slime-draped website collaboration is asking kids to pick the winner of Sunday’s big game. The site gives points for correct picks alongside cartoon visuals and NFL trivia. 

“There’s a massive exposure effect. There’s a habituation and grooming effect,” Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told Axios

Sacramento Kings Accepting Startup Pitches for Seventh-Annual Capitalize Contest, Will Host Tech Night Against Warriors

By Andrew Cohen

The Sacramento Kings have begun accepting applications for its seventh-annual Capitalize startup competition. Partners working with the NBA team to host the contest include the Sacramento Urban Technology Lab, business communications company Dialpad and marketing consultant group 3STEPS4WARD. 

 Startups have until Feb. 25 to apply for Capitalize, which will award $10,000 to a winner on Tech Night, April 3, at the Golden 1 Center when the Kings host the Golden State Warriors. A $3,000 prize will be awarded to the second-place startup and $1,500 for third place. Startups based within 75 miles of Sacramento are eligible for the contest.  

 A panel of Kings’ president of business operations John Rinehart, Kings’ VP of experiences and social responsibility Maritza Davis, Dialpad CEO Craig Walker, 3STEPS4WARD Doug Younger III and Berkeley Strategy Advisors managing partner Kenny Sadler will judge eight semifinalists at a pitch day on March 21.

 A selected four finalists will advance to upload pitch videos to the Kings’ website. Fans can vote on Twitter until halftime of the Kings-Warriors game to select the winning startup, which will be decided by tallying votes from fans and judges.  

 Credder, an online community for writing reviews of news articles, won last year’s Capitalize competition. Past startups to participate in the program include parking management app Japa and nutritional meal plan service Trifecta.  

UFC Enters Brazilian Sports Betting Market With Stake.com

By Max Rettig

The UFC has expanded its partnership with crypto gaming and sports betting company Stake.com. Already UFC’s official betting partner in Asia and Latin America, Stake.com will now also become UFC’s first betting partner in Brazil.  

Stake.com branding will appear during certain pay-per-view and Fight Night events throughout the year and will become the presenting partner of UFC events that take place in Brazil. In addition, Stake.com will collaborate with UFC on exclusive digital and social content, as well as exclusive promotions for fans. 

The two companies will create branded social content ahead of UFC 271 on Saturday at Houston’s Toyota Center. The event will see Stake.com brand ambassador and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defend his title against Robert Whittaker.

Esportudo, a Sports Media Startup for Latin Fans, Raises $1.6 Million

By Joe Lemire

Latino sports media company Esportudo has closed a $1.6 million seed round led by Vice Ventures. The round brings Esportudo’s total funding to more than $2.3 million. 

Esportudo is a tech-centric content provider targeting Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking sports fans. Its apps and social media accounts already generate more than 300 million monthly views spanning a host of media offerings: written stories, podcasts, videos, newsletters and more. 

A graduate of the 2020 Techstars sports accelerator in Indianapolis, Esportudo was co-founded by Marcos Araujo and Gabriella Silva, two first-generation Brazilian Americans who call Boston home. Vice Ventures is a New York City firm focused on backing companies that appeal to underserved consumer markets. 

Washington Nationals Plan to Accept Crypto at Its Stadium Through a New Deal With Terra

By Andrew Cohen

The Washington Nationals plan to let fans use cryptocurrency at Nationals Park as part of the team’s new sponsorship with decentralized autonomous organization Terra. The club will explore letting fans use Terra’s UST stablecoin for in-venue purchases as soon as next MLB season.

The premier food and beverage club located behind home plate at Nationals Park has been renamed The Terra Club. Terra’s brand will appear on in-stadium signage and in a digital series on the team’s social channels. Crypto’s introduction at Nationals Park comes as BetMGM opened a retail sportsbook at the ballpark last month, the first sports betting operation connected to an MLB stadium.

“By approving this sponsorship deal, the community has a new way to engage and educate the public, including the policy makers doing important work in Washington, D.C., about decentralized money and the burgeoning technology that underlies it,” Do Kwon, founder of Terraform Labs, said in a statement.

Federal lawmakers and crypto lobbyists met in D.C. on Wednesday, during which the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission asked Congress for authority to regulate some cryptocurrencies. Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of Bahamas-based crypto exchange FTX, which partnered with MLB last season among its flurry of sponsorships across sports, said he supported federal regulation during Wednesday’s hearing, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

“I think the CFTC is in a very strong position to do this,” Bankman-Fried said. “I would love to see that jurisdiction expand to be able to provide federal oversight for the cash markets similar to how they do for derivatives markets today, both to provide consumer protection, protect against systemic risks, and provide a clear and consistent framework for the industry.”

Last year, the Oakland A’s became the first MLB club to accept cryptocurrency, though that was limited to the team accepting Bitcoin in exchange for season suite tickets. The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks began accepting Dogecoin in 2021 for items from the team’s online store.

Other sports teams in the nation’s capital to embrace crypto include the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Both teams expanded their partnerships with FTX last week to launch a sweepstakes that’s expected to give away thousands in Bitcoin to fans in the D.C area.

UK Men’s Basketball to Track Lower-Body Muscle Fatigue With Strive Shorts Wearable

By Dominic Massimino

The University of Kentucky men’s basketball program has partnered with muscle activation monitoring company Strive to deliver actionable data on players’ muscle performance throughout the college basketball season. 

 Strive’s sensor devices use electromyography technology and are sewn into compression shorts to analyze muscle activity in an athlete’s hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps. By monitoring muscle performance in non-game settings, the team hopes to minimize injuries due to muscle fatigue and use data to inform coaches on when players recovering from injury are ready to return to play.

 Originally offering a litany of other performance data including GPS and acceleration, Strive refined their product over time to focus specifically on EMG data readings and muscle optimization. Strive has previously partnered with Les Spellman’s Spellman Performance and equipped the Dominican Republic National Baseball team with Strive compression apparel.

SoFi Stadium App Adds Mobile Wallet With Tappit

By Dominic Massimino

Mobile payment provider Tappit has announced a 10-year partnership with SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park in Los Angeles. Fans will now be able to purchase food, drink and merchandise by scanning QR codes with their phones at the stadium and placing orders through the SoFi Stadium mobile app.

“We want guests that enter our site to have multiple payment options, so they can make transactions safely and efficiently. Through Tappit’s technology and the invaluable insights it provides, we’ll be able to do just that,” SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park CTO Skarpi Hedinsson said in a statement. 

SoFi Stadium, which is home to the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and will host Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, will now let managers leverage data from Tappit on fan consumption trends to improve the venue’s fan experiences. In the last year, Tappit has formed partnerships with the San Antonio Spurs, the Rose Bowl and the Cincinnati Reds.

Red Bull Racing Grows Its Relationship With Oracle, Is Re-Cast as Oracle Red Bull Racing

By Andrew Cohen

Formula One team Red Bull Racing has been renamed Oracle Red Bull Racing through its expanded partnership with the cloud computing firm. The team will expand its use of Oracle’s cloud platforms to run race simulations to help improve driver performance. 

Oracle became a cloud infrastructure partner of Red Bull Racing last season, during which Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won F1’s Drivers’ Championship. Oracle’s cloud software was used by Red Bull Racing last season to increase the number of simulations ran by 1000x. The expanded partnership will also see the launch of Oracle Red Bull Racing Esports, a new esports team that will use Oracle’s analytics to optimize their virtual car set up and improve race strategy. 

“Every element of our performance is driven by data analysis. Having Oracle as our title partner shows the confidence we have in their expertise and their ability to deliver a true competitive advantage,” Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal and CEO Christian Horner said in a statement.  

The Foo Fighters to Play a Virtual Reality Concert on Meta’s Headsets After Sunday’s Super Bowl

By Andrew Cohen

Meta will host a Foo Fighters concert that will air in virtual reality after the Super Bowl. Fans who have Meta Oculus Quest headsets can watch the concert live in VR after downloading the Horizon Venues app. 

The social network which rebranded in October to focus on building the “metaverse” will allow headset-wearing fans to dress their avatars with NFL-licensed Super Bowl t-shirts and interact with other avatars inside a football-themed virtual concert lobby on the Venues app. Some areas of the virtual environment will be restricted to users 18 and older in the U.S. and Canada, such as one room where avatars can play a laser tag-inspired team game.

Multiple 180-degree cameras will be positioned around the stage to film the show, which is being directed by famed music video director Mark Romanek. The concert will start at 11:00 pm ET or immediately after the conclusion of the game, whichever occurs later.

Fans without Meta’s headsets can stream the concert on Meta and the rock band’s Facebook and Instagram pages. A 60-second ad for Meta’s Quest 2 headset will air during Sunday’s Super Bowl on NBC. Promotions for Meta’s VR headsets have also aired on ABC during nationally televised NBA games this season. 

New Orleans Pelicans Debut Branded Credit Card With Cardless

By Dominic Massimino

The New Orleans Pelicans have partnered with financial technology firm Cardless to create the team’s’ first branded credit card. Cardless has previously made branded credit cards for the Miami Marlins, Cleveland Cavaliers and Manchester United. 

Users who pay for items with the Pelicans’ card can earn points towards statement credits, game tickets, player-signed jerseys and other exclusive experiences. Fans will receive a 4x points bonus when using the card to buy Pelicans tickets, as well as 10% off from concession stands at the Smoothie King Center and 10% off items in the Pelicans Team Store. The 4x points bonus also applies to bars, restaurants and gas stations.

New cardholders can earn up to 30,000 points after spending at least $2,000 on the card in the first three months of ownership, which amounts to approximately $300 in statement credits or $375 in gift card redemptions. The card has no annual fee, no late fees and no foreign transaction fees.