OKX wants deals with McLaren, Man City to last a decade

Quick Take

  • The exchange operator spends $25-50 million a year sponsoring two of the biggest names in sports — McLaren and Manchester City.

Many of the biggest splashes made by crypto outfits in the world of sports advertising have been brief. But OKX, partner to Formula 1 team McLaren and UEFA Champions League winners Manchester City, hopes to make a lasting impression.

“Our deal [with McLaren] is five years and my motivation is that it extends into a decade-long deal at the very least,” said Haider Rafique, global chief marketing officer at OKX, in an interview with The Block. “And this is not something that comes naturally to crypto companies.”

That is putting it mildly. FTX, the crypto exchange run by Sam Bankman-Fried that collapsed dramatically into bankruptcy last year, provides a painful reminder of the crypto sector’s often ephemeral association with sports organizations. Before going bankrupt, FTX had its brand emblazoned on the race cars of Mercedes-AMG Petronas and briefly renamed the Miami Heat’s stadium to “FTX Arena.”

The company’s failure forced a global rethink of crypto sponsorships by sports organizations. Earlier still, crypto operators were already in retreat. In September 2022, Crypto.com pulled out of a $495 million UEFA Champions League sponsorship deal.  

Sticking with McLaren

OKX, on the other hand, has so far stuck with its partners. In Singapore, ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix, the firm yesterday unveiled a new, stealthier-looking version of the McLaren car — complete with its logo. 

The right to have a hand in such events doesn’t come cheap. Rafique said OKX spends roughly $25-50 million a year on advertising — a substantial part of which goes to McLaren and Man City. Those numbers are variable. This year, OKX spent an extra $6-7 million with McLaren, Rafique added.

“We’re not betting on future revenue for the survival of these deals or relationships, in fact we’ve taken money aside and that money is put aside as a liability and that money doesn’t get touched,” he said. “There’s a schedule of payments every year and we fulfill those payments absolutely on time.”

He continued: “When these deals have a generational impact is when they’re long-term. Remember the Marlborough branding on Ferraris? I don’t think any of us can forget it.”

“Your dollars have to build equity," he concluded.

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