FTX backs California Memorial Stadium in ‘historic’ deal

Cryptocurrency exchange FTX has acquired naming rights to the field at California Memorial Stadium as part of a wide-ranging deal with the athletics department of the University of California, Berkeley.

As part of the agreement, the 62,000-seat venue will be rebranded as FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. The 10-year deal will be worth $17.5m (£12.8m/€14.9m) and is said to mark the first-ever cryptocurrency naming-rights sponsorship in college sports.

The deal has been signed between Cal Athletics, its multimedia rights-holder Cal Bears Sports Properties, and West Realm Shires Services, which owns and operates FTX. Cal Bears Sports Properties is operated by Learfield, which will accept the full $17.5m in cryptocurrency on behalf of the university.

The deal will see Cal Athletics and FTX support and build out a community engagement programme for the Cameron Institute for Student-Athlete Development. FTX will make a significant financial investment in the institute, with the efforts to initially focus on serving communities including the homeless population in Berkeley, underrepresented students and the Cal Veterans Group.

FTX will also benefit from on-field branding and a presence in the backdrop of press interviews, along with social media integration. The partnership will also result in the launch of a community service platform that will support projects across a variety of philanthropic causes.

Jim Knowlton, director of athletics at the university, said: “FTX is a growing company at the forefront of innovation in an emerging technology, one that fits well at both Cal and in the Bay Area.

“This agreement extends well beyond field naming rights, which is part of our strategic plan to diversify revenue streams in support of our student-athlete experience, and includes commitments for our Cameron Institute, Cal Veterans and students in need here in Berkeley. We are looking forward to building our relationship now and in the years ahead.”

FTX’s chief operating officer Sina Nader, who earned his bachelor’s degree in legal studies from the university, added: “We’re excited to partner with one of the world’s great universities and expand crypto’s presence into the collegiate athletics landscape.

“This historic partnership will also allow us to collaborate on charitable initiatives that align with our organisation’s core values. Personally, I am excited to work alongside my alma mater to collaborate with local communities around a variety of causes.

“In the spirit of giving back, we are also committing an additional $200,000 on top of this partnership, which will specifically be used to help fight homelessness in Berkeley, and to support organisations that help underrepresented student groups at UC Berkeley.”

The Bears’ first game at the newly-named FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium will be on September 4.

The deal has been signed after FTX earlier this year acquired naming rights to the home arena of the Miami Heat NBA basketball team.

The long-term agreement officially rebrands the venue as FTX Arena from the 2021-22 season, with reports suggesting that the deal will be worth $135m over 19 years. FTX replaced AmericanAirlines as the naming-rights sponsor of the arena.

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