Staples Center will get a new name for Christmas: Crypto.com Arena.
The two parties announced on Tuesday that the central Los Angeles venue – home to the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sparks – will wear the new name for 20 years under a deal between the Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange and AEG, the owner and operator of the arena. Crypto.com has paid more than $700 million for the naming rights, according to sources familiar with the terms, making it one of the biggest naming deals in sports history.
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3:22 PM November 17, 2021An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that AEG owns the Auckland Coliseum. It works but it doesn’t own the place.
The new arena logo will appear on December 25, when the Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets, and all Staples Center banners will be replaced with the new name by June 2022.
Crypto.com CEO Chris Marsalek hopes the new name will be seen as a sign of the times.
“In the next few years, people will look at this moment as the moment when digital currencies have crossed the divide into the mainstream,” Marsalek said upon arriving at his home in Hong Kong.
“This is just a great move from the guys at AEG, because the next decade belongs to crypto,” he said. “And that puts Los Angeles and this particular place right in the middle of it.”
AEG owns a number of sports teams, including the Kings and Galaxy, and venues, including LA Live and the O2 Arena in London. It operates the Oakland Coliseum, one of the largest event promoters in the country, and produces Coachella, among others.
CEO Dan Pekerman said the blockchain finance company was just a thing for downtown Los Angeles
“It’s kind of a match in heaven, when we think about the kind of brands we want to partner with,” Beckerman said. “Crypto.com is looking for the most unique branding platform to make a statement and drive adoption, and we are looking for an innovative, forward-thinking company to help us chart a course for the future of sporting and entertainment events.”
AEG and Crypto.com are still working out how far the partnership will go beyond name, but the integration of cryptocurrency payments into the arena and online purchases may be on the horizon.
Visitors will see one visible change at the plaza entrance from L.A. Live, next to the Magic Johnson statue, where a 3,300 square foot “activation space” will become dedicated to Crypto.com featuring interactive crypto-centric experiences for sports or music enthusiasts. Crypto.com has also signed with Lakers and Kings as an official crypto partner.
The popular venue got its original name in December 1997, when Staples Inc. The boom was then $100 million in exchange for 10-year rights. Beckerman, who was AEG’s chief financial officer when the arena complex was first developed, said the value of the name was uncertain at the time.
“When we were selling the square, no one knew what it was, no one knew what it could be. Downtown was very different from downtown today.”
But after Staples Center became home to the Lakers, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led three consecutive championships in the early 2000s, after the downtown area around the center developed into a resurgent tourist and residential district, and after the venue became a frequent host to major events. Like the Grammys, it has cemented its place in the city’s cultural landscape.
Staples signed a deal in 2009 to name the rights in perpetuity – but AEG bought the naming rights back for an undisclosed amount in 2019. The pandemic halted the search for a new sponsor name, but the Crypto.com deal came together quickly after talks began at the end of the summer.
Staples’ fortunes have plummeted since the late 1990s, but the office supply company still has more than 1,000 stores nationwide and has been a Fortune 500 for the past 21 years. Crypto.com is 5 years old, and its business relies on a form of money that has been officially banned in China – although the company says it complies with all relevant regulations in the countries in which it operates. Marszalek did not attend a match at Staples Center; Christmas game will be his first visit.
But AEG’s Pekerman said he was impressed with the company’s commitment to the track. “The long-term part of this is actually the most important to us, and they shared that vision,” Beckerman said. He described AEG as “bullish” more broadly in the cryptocurrency.
With 10 million users and 3000 employees, Crypto.com is a major player in the crypto world. Its core business operates an exchange that allows users to trade cryptocurrency, store it in an online account, and access it using a Visa Rewards debit card, but it also has an NFT suite, a crypto payment program, its own token, and a number of other products in the works. Marsalek declined to share specific numbers but said the company reached profitability in early 2021 and saw revenue grow 2,000% last year.
The rebranding of Staples Center is the latest phase of the crypto company’s marketing campaign. A new announcement revealed by the company in October Matt Damon Features Hymn “The Four Simple Words Whispered by Boldness Since the Time of the Romans…Fortunate Prefers the Brave.” In November, a few billboards with that slogan appeared in cities around the world, and the company put out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal.
The company also signed partnership deals with the UFC, Formula 1 racing, Philadelphia 76ers, Montreal Canadiens, Lega Serie A, Paris Saint-Germain Football Club and Twitch Rivals, the streaming service’s esports category, last year.
Marsalek said that the goal is not only to increase brand awareness and market share, but to emphasize the increasing normalization of cryptocurrencies in American society.
Marsalek said Crypto.com has “an ambition to become a top 20 brand in the next three to five years, along with names like Nike or Apple,” with popular esports serving as a single gateway to mass adoption.
In a Morning Consult survey in September, people who self-identified as a sports fan were nearly three times more likely to say they are as knowledgeable about cryptocurrency as those who don’t care about sports — 66% among ardent fans versus 23% among non-fans — and some Sports leagues have been working on blockchain products in recent years.
In October 2020, the National Basketball Association partnered with a Canadian crypto company, Dapper Labs, to create the NBA Top Shot, a group of NFTs that allowed fans and speculators to buy and sell crypto tokens linked to NBA highlight clips (think digital trading cards). By March, the Top Shot market had become one of the hottest corners of the NFT craze, generating $230 million in sales — mostly in the secondary market.
The Top Shot market has since slowed, even as the overall NFT market continues to balloon, but the total value of Top Shot NFTs is still estimated at $740 million.
Los Angeles isn’t the first arena in the NBA to get a crypto brand. In March, FTX — a company run by “the richest man in crypto” according to Forbes, which recently moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to the Bahamas — signed a $135 million deal to acquire 19-year naming rights to Miami Heat Square, which It was previously called American Airlines.
Crypto.com has paid more than five times as much for the equity of Los Angeles Square — but Marsalek isn’t worried that the investment might not work out. “There is no doubt in my mind that it was worth it,” he said. “My conviction level is 100%.”