Crypto Sponsorships Are Back? University of Miami Strikes Deal With Helium Mobile

Helium Mobile, a wireless phone service built on the decentralized, crypto-powered Helium network, has been named the Official Wireless Sponsor of University of Miami Athletics, the company and school announced Wednesday.

As part of the collaboration, Helium Mobile will host promotions and fan experiences at Miami Hurricanes home games across sports, including as yet unannounced deals for students. The sponsorship will launch at the Miami vs. Notre Dame men’s basketball game on December 2, with Helium Mobile serving as the game’s presenting sponsor.

The deal is in effect for the remainder of the 2023-24 collegiate season. A Helium Mobile representative told Decrypt that it was a six-figure deal, but did not provide specific financial details.

In August, Helium Mobile launched a $5 per month unlimited phone plan in Miami using its network of hotspots, which are operated by users who earn crypto tokens for participating in the network. Helium Mobile’s network is also supported by T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G coverage, which is tapped when users aren’t within range of a hotspot.

“We know how tight budgets can be and partnered with the University of Miami to help students, faculty, staff, and fans have a more affordable phone plan in their city,” said Frank Mong, Chief Operating Officer of Helium Mobile creator Nova Labs, in a release.

Crypto companies signed a bevy of sports team and league sponsorships in 2021 and 2022 as the burgeoning industry grew, but such deals slowed after last year’s crypto market crash—and particularly following the November 2022 collapse of crypto exchange FTX, which had led the charge on sports alliances with Major League Baseball, the Miami Heat, and Tom Brady, among others.

Such sponsorship agreements haven’t completely dried up in 2023, as Sui network creator Mysten Labs signed with dominant F1 team Oracle Red Bull Racing and crypto exchange Kraken sponsored F1 team Williams Racing. Also, two existing soccer club deals with exchanges were extended—AC Milan with BitMEX, and Manchester City with OKX. But the flow of new crypto sponsorship deals with sports teams has slowed to a trickle.

Helium is a decentralized “network of networks” that incentivizes users to participate and run wireless nodes by rewarding them with crypto tokens. Originally started on its own blockchain, Helium migrated to Solana earlier this year following a community vote in 2022.

The original Helium network let users share their home or business Wi-Fi connection by running a hotspot, which broadcasts a signal that could provide connectivity to nearby Internet of Things (IoT) devices like sensors and trackers. Over 960,000 such hotspots have been deployed to date.

More recently, the Helium 5G network launched to provide connectivity for devices like smartphones and laptops. Nova Labs, the startup that includes the original creators of Helium, built the Helium Mobile service on top of that network and signed a deal with T-Mobile to utilize its service to provide nationwide connectivity across the United States.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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