Sports Business Journal reported earlier this month that the New York Mets added the open-source blockchain technology network Tezos to the team’s sponsorship portfolio for the remainder of the ’21 season. SBJ said that the advertisements marked the first blockchain deal for the Mets and the first such deal of its kind across all 30 MLB clubs.
Cryptocurrencies are in the limelight these days in the US after a contentious fight over legislative language in the massive infrastructure moving through Congress. The fight highlighted the need for more everyday Americans and lawmakers themselves to better understand cryptocurrencies and the positive benefit they can bring to the economy and society.
Advertisements are one of the critical tools for brands and technologies to educate the masses. And it is no surprise that the first such advertisement with an MLB team is none other than Steve Cohen’s New York Mets.
Meet Steve Cohen
The New York Mets are owned by Steve Cohen, prominent billionaire and hedge fund manager. Many fans of the acclaimed Showtime series “Billions” will know Steve Cohen as the real-life character of Bobby Axelrod played by actor Damian Lewis.
Steve Cohen is the former founder and director of SAC Capital. Most recently, he started Point 72 Asset Management. His tenure as the Mets’ owner is rather recent – in 2020, after successful negotiations with then owner Fred Wilpon and president Saul Katz, Cohen acquired a majority share of the team. Many New Yorkers see Cohen’s acquisition of the team as a new era for the struggling franchise. Since the Tezos advertisement went up in centerfield, the Mets are 3-0 at home.
But why Tezos to replace the formerly iconic Nikon sign? It might have something to do with Cohen’s personal and professional interest in blockchain technology.
In May of this year, Bloomberg reported that Point 72 was looking seriously at crypto:
“We are exploring opportunities around blockchain technology and its transformative and disruptive capabilities,” the firm said in a letter to investors seen by Bloomberg. “We would be remiss to ignore a now $2 trillion cryptocurrency market.”
Cohen and Crypto
With over $22.1 billion in AUM (assets under management), Cohen’s interest in cryptocurrency markets cannot be ignored. Several years of scrutiny and apprehension to the space may have resulted in missing out on the beginnings of the crypto revolution; however, it now appears Cohen is finally on board.
“I already feel like I missed the first part of it, but I still feel like it’s early,” he said in a recent interview.
He has even gone on to indicate his interest in the potential applications of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology at his own hedge fund, citing that he is “hopeful that we will be able to start building something with Point72.”
In one of the first steps towards this move into the industry, Point72 recently announced their Series A investment in the crypto data startup, Messari.
Cohen seems to have a forward-looking perspective on crypto; rather than setting his sights on the fluctuating price of a specific token, his interests lie more in the applications of the blockchain technology itself.
“I don’t care about bitcoin. I care more about the technology behind the blockchain and how transformational it is and how disruptive it could be,” he said.
A statement that can clearly be seen as an indicator of how Tezos wound up at Citi Field.
Baseball, Meet Blockchain
Tezos is an open-source proof of stake blockchain network. It powers applications and tools behind leading financial institutions, central banks, NFTs, DeFi platforms, and more. Tezos at its core is known as one of the most advanced blockchains in the world with its ability to upgrade without causing hard forks, the process of splitting a network to add new features or efficiencies.
Tezos embodies Cohen’s interest in the underlying innovations of bitcoin. Cohen’s position on blockchain’s potential to be “disruptive” is reflected in current developments within the wider baseball community.
The MLB itself has recently dipped it’s proverbial cleats into the crypto well, cutting a sponsorship deal with the crypto exchange FTX resulting in FTX branding appearing on umpire uniforms. The MLB has also stepped into NFTs with a partnership with Candy Digital to mint and trade NFT baseball cards, audio/video of seminal moments in baseball history (like Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech), and more using the Ethereum blockchain.
Tezos is aso showing its stripes as a big player in the sports ecosystem. Earlier this year, McLaren Racing announced a multi-year technical partnership with Tezos to create a “fan-focused NFT platform.” Tezos is also the official blockchain partner of Red Bull Racing, with the racing team sporting its own NFTs on the blockchain.
Now Tezos has set its sights on baseball, functioning as an official blockchain sponsor of the New York Mets. The Tezos logo will be on display across Citi Field and digitally overlaid on the pitcher’s mound.
Sports teams and organizations are beginning to recognize the value of blockchain and are adopting this disruptive technology to create entirely new experiences for fans and shedding light on this new era of innovation. Likewise, open-source networks such as Tezos see brand exposure at this level critical to educating the next wave of cryptocurrency users. And it seems like Cohen agrees.