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A crypto company got into bed with the Los Angeles Lakers: Then it shot an insult


Crypto King James?

Screenshot by ZDNet

It’s the time of year when we think about what’s to come while desperately trying to forget the year that’s ending.

In tech, some things stayed the same — Microsoft treating its customers badly, for example — and some things offered dazzling new dawns.

You’re surely into crypto, right? How could you not be? It’s the future of, well, money and finance. Or, at least, of speculation.

It surely wasn’t surprising, then, that the home of a thousand facelifts — and the Los Angeles Lakers — recently decided to lay down with a crypto company.

Should you have been too busy creating your next NFT disappearing artworks, you may not have realized that the arena currently known as the Staples Center will soon become the Crypto.com Arena.

If that doesn’t signal a bright future for an ageing team, I’m not sure what does.

Crypto.com is spending $700 million over a 20-year period to have its name likely not uttered by too many people. When sports venues change their sponsors, it’s hard to adjust. Many San Franciscans still know the home of the Giants as Pac Bell, rather than, wait, what is it now, oh, Oracle Park.

Tech companies, though, seem desperate to associate themselves with sports because it makes them feel more exciting than they really are.

They also hope that associating their names with sports indicates to a wider swathe of the sentient that their brand is of the future.

I was touched, therefore, on hearing some of the more considered thoughts emitted by Crypto.com’s CMO Steven Kalifowitz.

Speaking to the Athletic, Kalifowitz offered bracing realism, sprinkled with a little insult toward tech’s past.

He claimed not to be all that bothered if people resist uttering the words “Crypto.com Arena.” In one splendid moment, he even suggested that this whole naming thing wasn’t such a big thing at all.

“The Staples Center is not that old. The naming rights partner, I don’t know if they’re still in business,” he mused.

Oh, that’s mean and cutting.

The place where you used to buy your office equipment from is still in business but somehow less relevant than, say, the delights of crypto. Or so Crypto.com believes.

And really, who can keep up with all the sports arenas that suddenly take on the names of upstart concerns? Aren’t you almost nostalgic for Enron Field? Or Jobing.com Arena? (The latter was once the name of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes little lair.)

What on earth, then, is Crypto.com doing this for? “Global awareness,” it seems, even if people may not immediately utter the name at all.

Then there’s the idea of solidity. In Kalifowitz’s words: “A big part of the strategy is, ‘How do we communicate the fact the industry is not going anywhere, and we’re not going anywhere? The best expression of that is something like this, putting your name on a building.”

It’s a quaint — and momentarily clever — idea that people will believe that your brand is solid and lasting by putting your name on something solid and lasting. Even if history may suggest, it’s actually fluff, bunkum and bilge.

The crypto people want you to believe they’re the real future, so what better way than to attach themselves to something that has managed to last in human hearts?

Naturally, I have thoughts.

Crypto.com Arena is a cumbersome name. It, therefore, needs a nickname. What finer one could there be than The Crypt?

A moribund team — Disclosure: Golden State Warriors fan — in an ageing arena desperately trying to make itself look younger by attaching itself to the new, new thing.

ESPN‘s Sports Center would surely feel more comfortable beginning highlights with: “Tonight at the Crypt, LeBron had a tough shooting night again. And whined a lot.”

I have a greater marketing struggle, however.

I thought the dotcom era went out with, well, adding the word dotcom to your brand name. Yet here’s a supposed company of tomorrow slapping dotcom onto itself and a famous building.

Doesn’t that feel like the return of the bubble all over again?

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