Back

Exclusive: The Rise Of Crypto Partnerships In Sport

T
he rise of cryptocurrency partnerships in sport has been well documented over recent years, with major sporting leagues going as far to introduce new sponsorship categories allowing clubs to introduce new partnerships.

Discussing the rise of crypto partnerships in sport, Crypto.com chief marketing officer, Steve Kalifowitz, spoke with Ministry of Sport about the increasing role of crypto platforms in sport and the work Crypto.com has done leading the way for other platforms.

“We’ve been pretty active this year striking partnerships with some of the biggest and best brands in the world, with UFC obviously being one of them,” Kalifowitz told Ministry of Sport.

“UFC is an amazing partner, and it was an amazing opportunity to connect with fans of one of the fastest growing sports and one of the most global sports.

“Formula One is another one we’re very proud and excited about, we’re one of seven global sponsors for the competition, another extremely global sport…

“From just those two properties alone, we’re able to connect with over one billion fans around the world.

“Most recently, we partnered with the Philadelphia 76ers, PSG, who you could argue are the best football team in the world, and there’s several others, the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL, Aston Martin in Formula One, Fanatic esports, we could keep going but we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done this year,” he said.

On the shift of focus in commercial partnership activation due to COVID-19 to more digital properties, Kalifowitz said Crypto.com’s partners have made the change in sport engagement a smooth process.

“I don’t think we’ve faced that many challenges because we’re working with the best partners in the world who take the pandemic seriously and put in all the safety precautions necessary and there have been new opportunities come up that maybe didn’t exist in the past,” Kalifowitz said.

“Part of our mission is to accelerate the world’s transition into cryptocurrency, which means reaching as many people as possible and when it comes to these properties we’re working with, I think we’re reaching as many people as possible.

“Viewership of live sport is up across the board in almost every sport, attendance in arenas is down but the number of people engaging in sport and amount of time people spend engaging in sport has gone up.

“I think we’re just at the early stages, what we’re going to work on is improving and enhancing the fan experience, the connection between fans and the sport, the league, the teams, the athletes and even connecting fans to each other.

“Giving ways for people to connect is something people genuinely look forward to, I don’t think we’ll ever replace the in-stadium, in-arena, on-track experience, there’s something special about people being close together, hearing the roar of the crowd and being part of that single voice that gets excited when something happens at the stadium, but that experience is limited by design.

“Only so many people can fit in the stadium, and there are millions of people that can’t get there or will never get there, but want to taste what that feels like, and there are ways we can deliver that in the digital world, and I think that’s the next frontier for crypto and sport together,” he said.

When asked if rightsholders are beginning to truly understand the value of cryptocurrency in sport, Kalifowitz said initially partnerships were focused on educating rightsholders, but now its more about innovating collaboratively.

“We’ve been at this for a while, we’ve been innovators in this space and I’m proud to say we’re the first crypto platform to partner with an NHL team, a Formula One team, with a national league in the Serie A, I could go on and on and I think we’ve opened the space for a lot of other crypto platforms to come in,” Kalifowitz said.

“In the beginning there was a lot of education, but the partners we’re working with today, they’ve done their homework, they’ve genuinely educated themselves on the space, they’re very excited about what the future holds, and the whole basis of our partnerships are just that, partnerships.

“They know enough to say there’s something here, some of them know more than others, but all of them are excited to work with us on building the future together…

“We’re partnering with incredible brands who have invested in building a community that supports that brand and is excited about the things the brand does.

“So we want to learn from them and work with them to connect with their community.

“In parallel, we are builders, we are innovators, we are inventing really the future of finance with what we like to call Web 3.0, the future of the internet which will run on cryptocurrency.

“So our partners look to us to understand what’s going on in this space, where can they innovate, how can they find new ways to connect with their fans and their community,” he told Ministry of Sport.