Is Berkeley the first cryptocurrency naming rights deal?

source:; author: michał

Is Berkeley the first cryptocurrency naming rights deal? The announcement made waves, forcing University of California (Cal) to clarify that the stadium name hasn’t really changed. Will the latest FTX deal change the market or be forgotten sooner than we think?


The sports venue market is no stranger to unusual naming rights, just ask Smoothie King Center if it earned them a few laughs aside from the more obvious dollars. Over the years even dating sites tried to acquire major stadium names, so it was bound to happen that a stadium would finally get a cryptocurrency-related naming. Just like with sports betting odds, there were quite a few parties crossing their fingers for such a deal to come to fruition. Finally, the day has come… or so a few news outlets suggested.

Back in August, Berkeley’s California Memorial Stadium became the first to get a sponsorship deal from a crypto-related company. Not a currency itself, rather a derivatives exchange. And not for the stadium name really, more for the field itself.

Contrary to Europe, field naming within a stadium isn’t new in the US, so it shouldn’t be that surprising to read that FTX acquired the name. For the next 10 years, California Memorial Stadium’s field will be named FTX Field.Nothing controversial, is it? And yet some news outlets suggested we’re dealing with a stadium naming rights deal indeed. This prompted the University of California to release a FAQ page, trying to reply to the misrepresentations. When the first answer begins with “Cal is NOT renaming California Memorial Stadium”, you know they’re in damage control mode.

California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley

The deal itself is also of no particular value. Don’t get us wrong, $17.5 million over a decade is nothing to be sniffed at, yet it’s still just $1.75 million annually. Is it newsworthy? Not really, that is until you can hype it by claiming that the entire sponsorship deal with FTX would be paid for in cryptocurrency. Which was a trick used by FTX chief operating officer Sina Nader, who marketed the deal as the “first deal of it's kind done 100% in crypto”.

After all, a major university accepting payment in cryptos would legitimise the still remote world of cryptocurrencies. Although it was claimed by major media like the Chronicle, it’s not true at all. Learfield, University of California’s multimedia rights partner, would indeed receive funding in cryptocurrency, however the university itself is still expected to be paid in cash annually.

All in all, the deal is a very decent one for Cal. While upgraded over the past decade, their Memorial Stadium is far from the biggest in collegiate football, with just over 60,000 capacity. The deal’s value is solidly above average and Sina Nader used to play defensive end for the university. So, despite all the buzz, it’s a more traditional deal than it may seem. And, just like with most traditional naming rights deal, you cannot really expect people to use the entire FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium, can you?