Cryptocurrencies are a digital tender, which have gained significant popularity over the past few years, as they have allowed people to complete entire financial transactions digitally. Enabling users to buy goods, services and make investments, its trajectory suggests that it may eventually become the dominant currency. One particular facet in the interests of sports fans is how it could become the choice of currency when it comes to major athletic sponsorships, join us as we take a closer look.
A Brief History Of Cryptocurrency
Before we go onto explaining how the digital currency might affect the sports sponsorship industry in the future, let us first give you an insight into what cryptocurrencies are and how they have amassed such a large following in a relatively small amount of time.
In 2008, a paper called Bitcoin- describing a peer to peer electronic cash system was published to a mailing list discussion regarding cryptography, by an elusive and still unknown individual called Satoshi Nakamoto.
A year later and the software was made available to the public, in the subsequent seven years, the system went from strength to strength until it peaked in 2017 where a single Bitcoin was valued at near $20,000. This momentum as you can imagine resulted in various similar digital currencies being created and thus serving as Bitcoins main competitors, this is where sports sponsorships came in.
Famous boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was the first major sportsman to endorse any form of cryptocurrency. He shared an Instagram post where he promoted Stox, a blockchain prediction markets platform, in the build-up to his match against UFC fighter Conor McGregor.
The week after that initial post, he then shared another photo on Instagram, this time promoting a different crypto-based network called Hubii, with the caption ‘You can call me Floyd Crypto Mayweather from now on…’ .
His image and name rights were used in an attempt to plug the ICOs and drive his 20m+ social media following to their respective sites.
The next significant deal that was accepted relating to sportsmen and cryptocurrency, was the agreement made between online broker platform eToro and the UK’s most high profile soccer organisation, the Premier League.
The partnership involved sponsoring several Premier League football clubs and in return, eToro would receive access to players, the club’s digital rights, tickets, the LED perimeter boards that surround the pitch and interview backdrops.
The reason that this sponsorship was so significant is that the deal which saw eToro partner with Newcastle United, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Southampton, Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff City and Tottenham Hotspur, is reported to be the first ever Premier League Partnership that was paid for in Bitcoin. Perhaps signalling that even the largest sports franchises in the world may be willing to adopt the cryptocurrencies.
A recent sponsorship deal, was signed by Arsenal Football Club, another team that competes within the UK’s premium soccer league. This time the deal was in tandem with US cryptocurrency company CashBet and saw the club promote the virtual firm’s initial coin offering (ICO) at their 60,000 seater home stadium.
This was the first time that any global sporting team had officially entered a partnership with a cryptocurrency firm, the official cost and currency used to pay for the deal is still undisclosed even a year after its announcement.
CashBet was as you can imagine immeasurably proud to be backing what they called “one of world football’s true giants”. Founder and CEO of the firm is also revealed that with the support of Arsenal that they would be “actively targeting a global, multi-billion dollar marketplace of iGaming content providers, operators and players.”
As part of the sponsorship, CashBet were able to use Arsenal’s crest and player rights on its official website.
In terms of stateside, some of the most high profile NBA teams have also begun to embrace crypto currency, most notable of which are the Houston Rockets, who have enlisted AntPool as sponsors for the remainder of the 2017-2018 season.
AntPool, is owned by the world’s biggest supplier of cryptocurrency mining equipment, Bitmain Technologies, and will hope that its sponsorship with the professional outfit will help to push itself and its industry into the mainstream.
As part of the undisclosed deal, AntPool will have an exhibition set up inside the Toyota Centre, the Rocket’s home arena, at the beginning of next year. It remains to be seen whether the bitcoin mining company will be given access to player’s digital rights, the courtside billboards and interview placards but the partnership is exciting nonetheless.
A sentiment repeated by Li Haijiao, Head Of Overseas Operations at Antpool, who said that the sponsorship will help “lead the conversation and conversion of consumers to adopt and understand digital currencies.”
As you can see from the four high profile examples discussed, more and more sports stars, teams and organisations are beginning to adopt cryptocurrency into some section of their sponsorship strategy.
What this means for the future of the sports, who knows? The one certainty that is clear from the prevailing evidence is that cryptocurrency will continue to go from strength to strength.