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For 26 years, Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli served as shirt sponsor for Serie A club Inter Milan. That deal ended last year when Pirelli was replaced by crypto fan token company Socios, which paid $16 million to have “$Inter Fan Token” front center of the team’s jersey while “by Socios.com” appeared in smaller print below the fan token branding.
Socios creates cryptofan tokens for other top European football teams such as Juventus, AC Milan, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester City and Arsenal. The company is also making inroads with major US leagues through fan loyalty and reward sponsorships with teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS. All of these leagues, except the NFL, are increasingly adopting jersey patches sponsorships. While Socio’s branding can already be found in premier US arenas such as Madison Square Garden, Crypto.com Arena and SoFi Stadium – CEO Alex Dreyfus is adamant that jersey sponsorships will not be part of the fan token company’s US expansion.
“Absolutely not,” Dreyfus told SportTechie. “We don’t see the value for us in sponsoring jerseys because when you do it, you do it for brand recognition. We don’t care about brand recognition. We want people to buy the symbol of the team they support.”
Dreyfus instead plans for Socios to buy luxury ticket boxes in American sports stadiums, such as the box the company already bought at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The company’s long-term goal is for American fans to see games from those boxes as a benefit to being a fan token holder for that team.
“We will pay for VIP boxes, here with the Nets we have a box [at Barclays Center], he said. “With the symbol we will build one day, we will give [fan token holders] access to these VIP boxes and we will have 30 plus worldwide. But it’s not about us spending money on a jersey, because that won’t bring users. This is from four years of experience, and I can really vouch for it. It’s not going to bring in users.”
Socios was Inter Milan’s kit sponsor for just one season. The Italian top-flight club instead had a shirt deal with cryptocurrency brand DigitalBits for the 2022-23 season. However, Inter Milan have not received payments from DigitalBits and claim the company owes them $17 million. Former soccer star and Inter Miami owner David Beckham joined DigitalBits as a brand ambassador in March to promote NFTs for the company’s “metaverse.”
“DigitalBits has nothing to do with ‘fan tokens’. It’s an empty shell company that signed deals they couldn’t afford with ZERO product,” Dreyfus recently wrote on his LinkedIn.