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July 7, 2022

NWSL’s crypto partner Voyager Digital files for bankruptcy

Cryptocurrency platform Voyager Digital has filed for bankruptcy, throwing into doubt multiple sponsorship deals recently struck with sports organizations.

By Susan Lingeswaran

Cryptocurrency platform Voyager Digital has filed for bankruptcy, throwing into doubt multiple sponsorship deals recently struck with sports organizations.  

Voyager signed multi-year agreements with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Dallas Mavericks, as well as several high-profile partnerships with former NBA star Tracy McGrady, Nascar Xfinity Series driver London Cassill, and former National Football League (NFL) players Marshall, Faulk, Rob Gronkowski, and Victor Oldipo.

However, it has now become the latest company to fall victim to the cryptocurrency market’s recent slump. Last week, the platform suspended all withdrawals, deposits, and trading before commencing bankruptcy proceedings this week.

It said, "prolonged volatility and contagion in the crypto markets over the past few months” had forced its Chapter 11 filing, which protects the business from creditors while allowing it to pursue strategic options.

In its filing, Voyager estimated it has more than 100,000 creditors and between $1 billion and $10 billion in assets and liabilities worth the same value, including Singapore-based crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital which failed to repay a loan worth $650 million after filing for bankruptcy itself last week.

The cryptocurrency market has fallen to less than $1 trillion from last year’s peak of $3 trillion, while the collapse of stablecoin TerraUSD in May has compounded the market’s issues.

The company has not commented on what the situation means for its various sports partnerships.

Voyager’s multi-year agreement with the NWSL in December saw the league enter its first partnership with a cryptocurrency company.

Under that agreement, Voyager said a “significant” amount of its investment into the league would be used to fund individual crypto accounts for each rostered player in the NWSL. Each player would be eligible to receive an equal portion of the Voyager-established players’ fund, deposited in an account accessible via the Voyager app.

The US-based firm was also to provide players with financial education on crypto, including key lessons and tools, to help develop long-term financial growth opportunities well after their playing careers had ended.

 Responding to the filing, an NWSL spokesperson told The Equalizer: “We are aware of the current volatility in the cryptocurrency marketplace and have been in touch with our partner at Voyager to understand the steps they are taking as a company.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and its possible impact on our partnership.”

Voyager’s five-year partnership with the Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, included naming rights to the Mav Gaming Hub, the gaming and event venue for the Macs NBA 2K League team.

This latest market casualty is set to fuel calls for regulation within sports sponsorship, following other high-profile breakdowns.

In January, fan engagement platform Iqoniq went into liquidation, leaving several sports organizations out of pocket, including soccer's LaLiga and Real Sociedad in Spain, Germany's Leverkusen, England's Crystal Palace, and France's Marseille, as well as Euroleague Basketball, the European Handball Federation, the McLaren Formula 1 motor racing team, and Essex County Cricket Club.

At the time, The Times reported that Sociedad was owed $916,000 by the firm for their shirt sponsorship, while Palace began legal action over missed payments on their sleeve deal.

In May, the digital sports trading platform Sportemon Go, sponsor of Scottish Premiership clubs Rangers and Hibernian, ceased trading its non-fungible tokens (NFTs), forcing both teams to find new partners.

The market collapse has also reportedly led to other crypto companies shelving their entry into the sports sponsorship space, including FTX, which ended negotiations for jersey patch sponsorship of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels last month, according to the New York Post.

Both Coinbase and Crypto.com, sponsors of the NBA and Los Angeles Lakers, respectively, recently announced a series of redundancies on the back of the fall.

At the end of 2020, English soccer’s Premier League opened an investigation into the growing relationship between cryptocurrency firms and its clubs, after a 285% increase in deals between 2020 to 2021.

More than half of the 20 clubs in the Premier League have sponsors in the space, with those partners having invested over $26.6 million in deals cumulatively.

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