Some athletes and clubs advertise them, some make their own, some even get their contracts in this new and unique form of payment. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology without a doubt change the global sport. It’s a growing process that may never reverse. On the contrary, it may even increase in the upcoming months.
- Leo Messi and other athletes joining Cryptocurrency Craze
- Small clubs being market’s pioneers
- Sport’s love affair with and cryptocurrency continuing
“This bitcoin stuff is really interesting. We got in it really early, and it’s so volatile. But it’s been fantastic. So just seeing how different things are coming off of that, different companies are merging, and branching off, and … it’s pretty cool stuff” - this quote from American footballer Richard Sherman (interview with The Ringer) shows how sport world noticed the potential of cryptocurrencies. And vice versa.
Global athletes use their advisory councils, invest money in that particular market. However, there are always two sides to a story. Sport stars, with an influence on millions of fans, both offline and online, have practically infinitive marketing value which is used by both parties. Some gain on advertising contracts, others on the increase of popularity and public awareness.
Decentralized systems of Lionel Messi
The biggest sportsman who got involved with crypto world is football superstar Lionel Messi. In December of 2017 he became a global brand ambassador of Sirin Labs, developer of the Finney blockchain phone and its own operating system.
“I am usually busy trying to decentralize defences and after digging deeper into blockchain and decentralized systems, I’m excited to join Sirin Labs as an ambassador to make blockchain more friendly with their upcoming operating system for smartphones” - Messi admitted in official statement. The management of Sirin Labs couldn’t ask for more attention. Example? Messi’s post on Instagram concerning sponsorship deal gathered more than 2,5 million likes.
Cryptoweed of Dennis Rodman
A lot of burgeoning cryptocurrencies looked for buzz in the industry by using sport celebrities to promote their goods or ideals. Ex and still active boxers Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao and Gennady Golovkin, as well as other well-known footballers like Lothar Matthaus, Luis Suarez, Gianluca Zambrotta and dozens of other disciplines stars became ambassadors of blockchain based companies.
Highly controversial retired basketball star Dennis Rodman walked his own path, as always. In 2018 five time NBA Champion travelled to Singapore to support The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in widely commented, historical summit with US President Donald Trump. Rodman then tweeted a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt of PotCoin, cryptocurrency used for... buying and selling weed. American also thanked his perfectly matching sponsor for financing trip to Asia.
“Just arrived to Singapore for the Historical Summit! (...) Thank you PotCoin for supporting my mission” - Rodman posted on Twitter. Later The Worm visited CNN studio when he talked about the connections between United States and North Korea. Of course he wore his sponsor shirt in the studio. Tension was so big that he even started to cry. Well, peculiar ambassador on peculiar mission.
James and Ronaldinho one step ahead
Of course not everyone can bring unique, flamboyant lifestyle to crypto world in the way Rodman did it. That’s why some athletes make a step forward. Last year Colombian and Bayern Munich midfielder James Rodriguez became first active football player who released his own cryptocurrency.
RJ 10 Token is a personal digital asset of Rodriguez built on SelfSell platform with the blockchain technology. RJ 10 debuted on market on May 2018 and reportedly was so popular that the first pre-sale batch of coin sold out in 12 seconds when it became available. “James has been in great form; he is definitely one of the future world football superstars and his fanbase keeps growing accordingly. But as a millennial, he intends to be digitally one step ahead; not only is he active on social networks, but he wants to create a new type of relationship with all the fans supporting him.” - the SelfSell news release claimed.
Market somehow opened by James was strengthened by big footballers whose careers ended a couple of years ago. Ronaldinho Gaucho also got the idea of creating his own token, called Ronaldinho Soccer Coin. Brazil magician started working with the Maltese company World Soccer Coin to realize his plans. The Ronaldinho project is based on the blockchain and will supposedly include the creation of a football academy.
Another Ballon d’Or winner Michael Owen also signed an agreement to release his token named OWN. “The career of a sportsman is quite short and there remains a life to live after retirement” - Owen said to CNBC. Englishman started project with Singapore based Global Crypto Offering Exchange. It was planned for the end of the second quarter of 2018 but it didn’t start yet.
Gibraltar dream and Dannish reality
Not only players work with cryptocurrencies. Sports clubs have much more they can bring into play on basically every aspect of the market. Professional organizations even pay their players in crypto, or at least try to.
In 2018 Gibraltar Premier Division team Gibraltar United crept into the spotlight and became the world’s first football team to introduce cryptocurrency. Their owner, Pablo Dana, an investor in the cryptocurrency Quantocoin, started a sponsorship partnership which was supposed to cause that players contracts will include payment agreements in crypto. Yet it’s still in progress. “There is an agreement in place to receive prize money or bonuses in Quantocoine. Once the mobile app is fully running we will also have the option to get paid in Quantocoin or in normal currency as we are now.” - one of Gibraltar United players said to The Next Web. He confirmed that no one in the team has received any salary or bonus payments in custom currencies. The player believed that team will fulfill its promise anyway. “I hope that they are keen on bonuses being paid in crypto as it’s a growing thing in our country.” - he stated.
So for now the clubs and the market are still not ready for z that kind of novelty. Especially in the most popular sport on the planet. That’s why there’s a gate for smallest disciplines. On December 2017 Bitcoin Suisse’s owner and co-founder Niklas Nikolajsen has entered a three-year sponsorship deal with Danish top tier hockey team Rungsted Seier Capital. Millionaire and Bitcoin enthusiast Nikolajsen has really ambitious plans that he implements step by step. Team’s ice rink has been rebranded from Rungsted Arena to, who would have thought, the Bitcoin Arena. But that’s not over yet. In the press release there was an information that Bitcoin Suisse planned to install cryptocurrency ATMs, along with a giant centerpiece of a physical bitcoin at the Stadium. That's not all, however!!
In Rungsted Seier Capital plays Nikolaj Rosenthal, 27-years old winger, one of the best players in the team and - what’s most curious - the first-ever professional athlete who gets paid exclusively in Bitcoin. “He is paving the way for others in- and outside of the world of professional sports to do the same,” the release announced. Rosenthal finished bachelor’s degree at the business school of Copenhagen. He also owns shares in several companies for the production of clothes and to reduce food waste at enterprises. So - in almost every possible way - dannish player is not your typical sports star. “I can imagine that other players would go my way. It’s really exciting to be allowed to be a pioneer with this.” - Rosenthal burst with pride.
Advertising and others keys to success
Of course we have to wait, maybe even an eternity, to see Rosenthal’s case becoming common. Sport giants at least now only see cryptocurrencies as an endorsement market. In July 2018 Major League Baseball launched MLB Crypto Baseball, fully licensed game that serve as a form of digital basketball cards. Prior to this Premier League season CoinDeal, a polish cryptocurrency exchange, signed a deal Wolverhampton Wanderers to become a shirt sponsor. Wolves then followed the steps of fellow rivals. Earlier in 2018 Arsenal, another english top tier club, also signed a sponsorship deal with that kind of platform. Gunners tied up with CashBet, an american cryptocurrency. Premier League giant did it do promote the firm’s initial coin offering at the Emirates Stadium.
Another notorious initiative was Paris Saint-Germain’s partnership with Socios, a Maltese company owned by ChiliZ. Thanks to this deal club will be allowed to launch a Fan Token Offering (FTO) that will give owners benefits such as VIP status and voting rights on certain issues (team’s MVP in each game, choices of friendly games, squads for charity matches).
Parisians weren’t the pioneers in that particular case. Italian Serie C Football Club, Rimini FC 1912 has become the first ever football team to be purchased in cryptocurrency. 25 percent of the club was bought by aforementioned Quantocoin together with Heritage Sports Holdings, sports investment company based in the United Arab Emirates.
“Heritage Sports Holdings with its partner Quantocoin will try to bring to the team and to the city new ideas and synergies from the sporting, brand image and technological point of views. […] This acquisition will enter the history of football, bringing a very important resonance to the city of Rimini.” - club president Giorgio Grassi stated at the press conference.
Apparently making history is the domain of smaller clubs, sometimes even the smallest ones. The other completely new idea comes from amateur turkish side Harunustaspor. They went all the way and in January 2018 paid for their new player Omar Faruk Kiroglu in Bitcoin. “We wanted to do something new, to make a name for ourselves in the country and the world” - the club’s chairman Haldun Sehit told CNN Turk about unique way of acquisition player. 22-years old Kiroglu was not only bought with Bitcoin, he also received 0.0524 BTC (then approximately £385) for his own use.
The photo from contract signing event was as exceptional as it could be. Kiroglu and Sehit were smiling and the player put his right hand on the contract but in the left hand he held phone with one of Bitcoin apps appearing. Unique and kind of funny. Turks wanted to make a name for themselves. And they succeed.
Cryptocurrency gives you wiiings
Although blockchain technology tries to conquer football the most (you can buy tickets to Santiago Bernabeu tour using cryptocurrency), it doesn’t stop only on The Beautiful Game. In 2014 NBA club Sacramento Kings allowed fans to pay in bitcoins for e-tickets and gear in the online store. Four years later Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner and the biggest individual basketball chairman world ever had, caught on the topic. In the previous statements he didn’t speak favourably about cryptocurrencies but with time made a complete 180-degree turn. He promised that the club will accept payments in cryptocurrencies. Later Cuban even informed about launching his own product based on blockchain. One's point of view depends on the point where one sits, right?
If we’re talking about big money market then Formula 1 is a must. People from F1 found a way to cooperate with cryptocurrencies too. Red Bull Racing has announced a partnership with cryptocurrency company called FuturoCoin. The deal between FuturoCoin and the sixth-most-winning car constructors in the racing championship is the first of its kind in Formula 1.
From the start of 2019 season more observant fans can notice something new on the Red Bull Aston Martin bolid. It’s a logo of FuturoCoin, first digital asset firm to sponsor F1 team. As it was written in the statement: “The partnership represents the first time a cryptocurrency has sponsored a team in Formula One, and marks another exciting step in the development of this industry”.
The multi-year contract will let FuturoCoin branding feature on the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15, team transporters and drivers’ overalls. Quite a lot, especially for little-known crypto asset sitting near the bottom of market cap. Just remember that Red Bull is the company valued at 10,4 billion dollars and one of the major players on a couple of markets, including the sport one. Sharks teaming up with small fishes? Apparently possible.
Birds of a feather flock together
As you can see, the love affair between cryptocurrency and sport grows fast and rather smoothly because both parties are somehow similar. They bring dynamics and limitless, maybe still unexplored potential to the game. Birds of a feather flock together, right?