Top 10 Significant Cryptocurrency Sponsorship Deals
It’s hardly surprising that cryptocurrency sponsorship has become much more of a thing over the last couple of years. The sector has seen explosive growth, after all Bitcoin has only just turned twelve years old but there are already around 6,000 cryptocurrencies in existence.
A whole ecosystem has built up around these currencies including exchanges enabling people to buy and sell them (just like shares); gamble or play games with them, digital wallets and payment systems allowing people to buy things with cryptocurrencies as well as firms providing services using cryptocurrency’s underlying digital-ledger technology ‘blockchain’.
The rampant growth of this new, and relatively unregulated, market has presented various, and sometimes unique, challenges for all these brands. These include educating the public about the sector in general as well as their own individual brand, establishing legitimacy and confidence in the public’s mind as well as getting people to use crypto products for likely the first time.
To overcome these challenges, the sector has increasingly turned to sponsorship – particularly the currencies, exchanges and the crypto-gaming/gambling brands. However, 2020 has seen the latter two dominating activity, in particular the prevalence of cryptocurrency exchanges partnering with football clubs across Europe. Football has accounted for over half of cryptocurrency sponsorships over the last few years, with motorsports and esports sharing nearly a fifth.
We’ve looked at over forty cryptocurrency sponsorships over the last few years and here’s our Top 10 in terms of significance (presented in chronological order of when the deal was announced).
1. Bitpay and the St. Petersburg Bowl
In our view, the first genuine cryptocurrency sponsorship deal between a company and a rights holder saw crypto payment company Bitpay sponsor the St. Petersburg Bowl, an annual post-season college football game in the US. This is the prime example of the first challenge facing crypto brands in having to educate the public about the technology first. Bitpay themselves weren’t the actual brand named in the sponsorship, instead they paid to promote Bitcoin itself, hence the event being known as the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl.
2. Bitpay and Kyle Busch Motorsports
Bitpay again? Yes but this time they promoted themselves, rather than Bitcoin, in what is probably the first-ever cryptocurrency sponsorship deal involving a professional sporting organisation. Kyle Busch Motorsports is a team in the US-based NASCAR series and the deal saw the cars emblazoned heavily with the Bitpay logos.
3. Cashbet and Arsenal FC
Bitpay certainly seemed way ahead of the curve as it would be nearly another three years before cryptocurrency sponsorship really started to take off with Cashbet’s sponsorship of English Premier League football team Arsenal. Not only did this seem to usher in the sustained era of crypto sponsorships but it was the first involving a major global sporting team. It’s also significant as it was the first deal in what would become a dominant theme in crypto sponsorships – gambling. The deal was designed to promote the launch of Cashbet Coin, a cryptocurrency specifically designed for use on CashBet’s online gambling platforms.
4. Assetereum and the World Seniors Snooker Tour
We like this one because it seems left-field for three reasons: cryptocurrency is very modern tech and tends to be marketed towards the younger digitally-savvy demographic yet here is a cryptocurrency sponsoring (1) the seniors element of (2) a very traditional, conservative and (3) non-mainstream sport, certainly compared to the likes of football and motorsport. We wonder if it had something to do with former world snooker champion Joe Johnson being an advisor to the Assetereum board…
5. eToro and seven Premier League Clubs
Social trading platform eToro merits inclusion on sheer size as well as being a landmark in payment terms. With the aim of promoting its crypto trading service – and cryptocurrencies in general – eToro partnered with not one but seven Premier League teams. Notably the deal, estimated at between £5-6 million, was paid for entirely in bitcoin. The clubs in question were Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Newcastle United and Southampton.
6. Antpool and the Houston Rockets
This warrants inclusion as it was the first major sponsorship from a non-currency or trading/gambling crypto brand and one that involves a physical product. Antpool and its parent company Bitmain are involved in producing cryptocurrency mining equipment. In the digital world, this isn’t pickaxes and head torches but rather the data centres, machines and software that enable new bitcoins to be entered into circulation and maintained. Antpool’s sponsorship of basketball’s Houston Rockets was part of a wider $500 million investment the firm was making into Texas.
7. KalaCoin and the Ogden Valley Balloon & Artist Festival
The what?! And that’s why we like this one. Not only does it show that one doesn’t have to be a major rights holder to attract sponsorship, it’s also a great example of tackling the ‘usage’ challenge crypto firms face. Ogden Valley attracted digital wallet Kala as a sponsor to encourage vendors and attendees to use KalaCoin as payment during the event. Anyone signing up to Kala received free coins as well as discounts at the event if paying by KalaCoin instead of cash. Ogden Valley noted this was an “experimental social event with an objective to educate the community on the real life application of the rapidly growing cryptocurrency scene”.
8. Chiliz and Barcelona FC
Although not a regulation ‘badging’ type of sponsorship, blockchain firm Chiliz partnered with Spanish football giants Barcelona to produce Barça Fan Tokens in a signature example of meeting the ‘usage’ challenge. Forty million tokens, costing €2 each, went on sale enabling fans to buy, earn and redeem tokens around various exclusive activities. Barcelona’s move into blockchain was part of their global expansion strategy to build fan engagement through digital means. Chiliz, which runs the fan voting & rewards app Socios, has partnered with many rights holders along these lines including the world’s top mixed martial arts organisation UFC.
9. Bitcasino and Wacken World Wide
This is significant as its a very rare example of a non-sport cryptocurrency sponsorship. In fact, the only one alongside Ogden Valley of the 40+ we came across. Crypto gaming brand Bitcasino jumped in as headline sponsor of the digital heavy metal music festival after the annual open air version was cancelled. This move into entertainment came soon after Bitcasino sponsored the virtual COVID-19 relief charity festival D3: Donate, Dance, Decentralize. We hope it’s an encouraging sign for rights holders in all sectors that crypto can look beyond sport for sponsorship.
10. Knaken and Sparta Rotterdam
Cryptocurrency exchange platform Knaken’s sponsorship of the Dutch first division football club rounds off our Top 10 due to the creativity and openness of the deal. The club will earn Bitcoins based on its performance and the ongoing amount they earn will be made publicly available. At the end of the season, the Bitcoins will be released so the club can sell them whenever they like to invest in their youth academy. At caytoo, we believe that brands will increasingly require a performance-related element in the cost of sponsorships and this is a great example of a forward-thinking way of doing this.
The full timeline of the 40 cryptocurrency sponsorships will be available in our soon-to-be-published “Cryptocurrency Sponsorship” report including fifteen crypto brands worth approaching as potential sponsors. For more information and to receive a sample ahead of this click here.