Riot Games have announced a new seven-year sponsorship deal with the cryptocurrency exchange firm FTX for the LCS.
The deal is believed to be the biggest sponsorship deal that Riot has signed for any of its esports tournaments.
As part of the deal, FTX name will be part of the Most Improved Player Award and they will also have their branding displayed across all LCS matches.
The financial terms of the deal though have not been disclosed and remain unknown.
Riot agreed deal due to Fan “Interest”
In a press release following the announcement of the partnership, Riot explained that it was their fans’ interest in cryptocurrency that was foremost in their thoughts when agreeing the deal with FTX.
“At the forefront of every LCS partnership, we consider the sentiment and interests of our fans.”
“This data strongly informs our decision-making process, helping us hone in on partners who are relevant to our audience and can elevate the LCS for years to come.”
“Those metrics pointed to a direct interest in the crypto category, where FTX stands out as an innovative, thoughtful leader in a space our fans understand. Together we’ve only just begun to press our advantage.”
Fans’ interest in cryptocurrency likely stems from the chance to try and make money from it, as well as the growing interest in sports and esports betting with cryptocurrency.
Surprise after TSM not allowed to use FTX Branding
The news is something of a surprise in the LCS community as it comes just a few months after the LCS stopped one of its franchises, TSM, from using FXT branding.
It is believed that this is because Riot has plans to use the streams internationally and in countries where cryptocurrencies are either heavily regulated, or perhaps not yet deemed legal, they will be able to remove FTX branding from their streams relatively easy.
However, to do the same on TSM team shirts, for example, would be incredibly difficult.
The partnership takes effect immediately and FTX branding will be seen across the first LCS broadcasts this coming weekend, when there will be plenty of viewers enjoying League of Legends betting.
Some commentators have labeled Riot as being somewhat hypocritical in denying TSM the opportunity to use a cryptocurrency provider, only to then agree to a deal with that same provider a few months later.
Furthermore, the issues regarding the heavy environmental impact of mining cryptocurrency, means that Riot has come in for some criticism for this agreement.
While you cannot fault the logic of being able to edit broadcasts to remove cryptocurrency branding for countries where they would otherwise be censored, the fact that you deny a franchise the same opportunities while enjoying them yourself does not appear particularly fair.
FTX has been making a number of moves into the sports and esports markets in recent times. They agreed a deal for the naming rights of the Miami Heat’s home court (formerly the American Airlines Arena). They also welcomed Tom Brady as FTX shareholders.
The company also struck a deal with MLB which sees umpires were the FTX logo on their sleeve.
Whether TSM seeks any clarification of Riot’s stance on the issue remains unclear at this time and while the move makes sense fiscally for Riot and some of its fans, the move will leave a sour taste in the mouth for many that follow TSM, or who have concerns for the environment.