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Team SoloMid strikes US$210m naming rights deal with FTX

Partnership between TSM and crypto trading platform is largest in esports history.

7 June 2021 Ed Dixon
  • TSM to also expand into new platforms, accelerate global reach and distribute cryptocurrency to players and employees
  • Riot Games confirms FTX branding restrictions in League of Legends and Valorant broadcasts
  • TSM topped Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable esports companies at US$410m

US esports organisation Team SoloMid (TSM) has announced a multi-year naming rights partnership with cryptocurrency trading platform FTX worth US$210 million, making the deal the largest of its kind in competitive gaming history.

The agreement is split between FTX Trading Limited and West Realm Shires Services Inc, owners and operators of FTX.com and FTX.US respectively. TSM’s partnership with FTX.US will cover the US, while FTX.com’s deal is international.

The exclusive deal, which lasts for ten years, according to reports, will see TSM renamed as TSM FTX.

In addition to naming rights, TSM FTX is set to embark on a new set of ‘industry-leading initiatives’ over the next five years as part of the partnership, which will see considerable investment into esports and gaming.

The partnership's strategy includes a focus on ‘massive expansion’ into new platforms such as mobile, as well as accelerating existing global reach with the opening of offices in Asia, Europe and South America. TSM FTX will also build on existing performance infrastructure and increase investment in talent development.

Additionally, TSM FTX will distribute cryptocurrency to each of its players and employees as well as purchasing US$1 million in FTT, FTX's native token.

“We're really excited to work with TSM. Their team has gone above and beyond both in-game and out, and rightfully established itself as the premier team in esports,” said Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and chief executive of FTX.com and FTX.US.

“We've also been really impressed working with them: they have the drive, creativity, communication, and generosity that we find combined in very few places. In the end our partnerships will only be as strong as we make them, and we think that TSM will be able to help massively expand the presence of digital assets outside the traditional landscape. We're also proud to work with them to give back to the world.”

Andy Dinh, founder and chief executive of TSM, added: “This deal is extremely important to the future of our organisation, but it was equally as important for me personally to partner with such a visionary leader.

“Just as a shared passion of gaming connects people around the world across ages, continents, and language barriers, Sam built a company that connects the world around a shared value of currency. I am extremely proud he chose to work with TSM.”

However, in an early setback for the partnership, TSM will not be allowed by game developer Riot Games to use its new FTX name in broadcasts for League of Legends and Valorant, two of esports’ biggest titles. The name and jersey sponsorship would be in violation of Riot Games’ guidelines around partnerships with cryptocurrency exchanges.

As first reported by Dot Esports, the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) has approved TSM to proceed with the partnership, but it has placed restrictions around the use of FTX branding. The esports news outlet added that TSM’s name will not change on Riot broadcasts. TSM players featured on LCS or other professional League of Legends broadcasts or Valorant events will not be allowed to wear jerseys with the FTX logo present.

“The TSM and FTX sponsorship deal does not break any LCS sponsorship rules, but crypto exchanges fall under a category of sponsorship that carries activation restrictions,” Chris Greeley, Riot Games’ head of esports for North America and Oceania and interim LCS commissioner, told Dot Esports.

“As a result, TSM’s new naming convention and FTX brand placement on TSM jerseys will not apply to the LCS or other Riot Games esports in North America.”

The TSM and FTX tie-up is the latest major esports naming rights deal announced in a week. On 3rd June, Dignitas inked a four-year partnership with digital bank QNTMPAY, while China-based JDG Gaming penned a deal with Intel Corporation on 6th June.

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