In Crypto ‘Arms Race’ For Mass Adoption, Companies Ink Sports Deals Worth Hundreds Of Millions

As cryptocurrency companies seek to reach mainstream audiences, some platforms are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor sports teams, stadiums and even leagues in a bid to woo new fans.

On Sept. 22, Crypto.com struck an eight-figure deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to sponsor the jersey patch and have visibility in the arena. The crypto trading app will also work with team management to develop non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and create a way for fans to use cryptocurrency to pay for tickets and other products. The Hong Kong-based company will also show up elsewhere alongside the NBA franchise—including on TV broadcasts and various other digital platforms.

Crypto.com Chief Marketing Officer Steven Kalifowitz recognizes that in order to build the brand, he has to also educate consumers about this new asset class.

“Crypto is not just another shoe,” he says. “It’s not a commodity thing or a suitcase or something. Getting into crypto is very much a cultural thing.”

Flush with money from eager investors, a growing number of crypto brands are spending big to reach a mass audience through sports sponsorships and mainstream events. Other deals this month include the cryptofinance company XBTO sponsoring the Major League Soccer team Inter Miami, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX sponsoring Mercedes-AMG’s Formula 1 team and the nonprofit Learncrypto.com sponsoring the English Premier League team, Southampton F.C.

Perhaps sports arenas are not a bad way to go when it comes to finding new fans for a new—and still largely unregulated—asset class that some critics dismiss as gambling and proponents say is the future of the internet as well as the economy. And in a fast-growing and cluttered market, the fight is to get not just recognition but market share.

“To me it looks like an arms race for user acquisition,” says Keith Soljacich, VP/GD of Experiential Tech at Digitas, a leading digital advertising agency. “It’s kind of like if you have a crypto wallet on a platform, it’s a lot like holding a Visa card, too.”

The 76ers deal is just one of many that Crypto.com has landed in the past year while it’s on an aggressive sponsorship spree totaling more than $400 million in deals. Earlier this month, the company became the first official crypto platform partner for the famous French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain. Crypto.com is also a sponsor of a wide range of teams including the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, Fox Sports’ college football midday coverage, UFC, and Aston Martin’s Formula One team—just to name a few. Each of these also includes various other integrations far beyond a logo.

Chris Heck, president of business operations for the 76ers, says the team had been looking for a new jersey patch partner for a couple of years and spoken with hundreds of companies. And because the jersey patch is the most important partnership a team has, it requires brands and teams to be “completely aligned.”

“As the world woke up to the crypto space a little over a year ago, we got a chance to venture down that road,” Heck says. “Think about it this way: Sports are entering into the crypto era world, and we get to the at the front of the line with Crypto.com. These are folks that are partnering with gold-standard brands like UFC, F1, PSG, and we get to be their brand and their of choice in the United States with major sports teams and that’s pretty cool.”

All this to go beyond the current crypto user base to reach the masses: A study Crypto.com conducted in July found that total global crypto users have doubled year-over-year from 106 million to 221 million. However, just a fraction of those are currently the company’s customers.

Earlier in September, FTX—a two-year-old startup that just moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to The Bahamas—announced a $20 million ad campaign starring football legend Tom Brady and his wife, the model and businesswoman Gisele Bündchen. And like Crypto.com, FTX is sponsoring a wide range of teams and leagues in rapid succession including a five-year deal with the Major League Baseball announced this summer.

“If we just stop at one deal and we’ll wait and see how it does and wait to see how that does before doing another one, the best opportunities might be gone,” says FTX.US President Brett Harrison.

According to Harrison, FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried asked for ideas of how do something “that’s big.” Someone then came up with the idea to buy the naming rights for a stadium, and a few months later they won the rights to rename the Miami Heat’s arena FTX Arena in a $135 million deal approved in March.

“There is a group of tech companies that know it in their bones that if they don’t become brands quickly, there is a time in the future where there will be just a few left,” says Jamie Shuttlesworth, chief strategy officer of Dentsu Americas, which became FTX’s agency of record in June.

Traditional advertising methods are important for building trust in crypto brands, according to Harrison—especially since it deals with something like taking care of people’s money.

“When’s the last time you saw an ad for maybe a bank pop up on the top of your Google search and said, ‘Time to move all my money from my Chase account or Citi account?’”

Major stadium and team sponsorships are often held by brands that are already well known, but the crypto sector’s aggressive land-grab feels in some ways like strategies in games like “Risk” or “Monopoly”—where people can either wait for the right properties or buy everything they can as fast as possible.

When asked about the Monopoly metaphor, Harrison joked that “we’re trying plant our pieces on as many Park Places as possible.”

There’s plenty incentive for sports organizations to team up with crypto companies. Mike Proulx, a Forester analyst and marketing expert, said many sports leagues want—and need—to attract the next generation of fans.

“These kinds of deals look to tap into crypto companies’ young skewing userbase with NFTs that are, in a way, a modern/virtual take on old school baseball cards,” he says. “And the benefit to crypto companies is, of course, getting to leverage the league IP that legitimizes their platform with trusted brands while also growing their users.”

The crypto industry has exhausted its original market, says to R.A. Farrokhnia, a professor at Columbia Business School professor and Executive Director of the Columbia Fintech Initiative. However, blockchain technology isn’t something that’s easily explained to the average person—it involves cryptography, complex networks, and other concepts—and also still aren’t to a point where users can easily navigate.

According to Farrokhnia, there are still questions about whether the foundations and interfaces are advanced enough to warrant the aggressive push toward mass adoption. Or, he asks, “are we putting the proverbial cart before the horse?”

“These are all the moving parts in this ecosystem and it seems the pace for innovation has accelerated,” he said. “But are we doing things in the right sequence?”

Farrokhnia also points out the irony that despite all of cryptocurrency’s new innovations, the companies are still using classic marketing models. However, he adds that little for athletes to market unregulated digital economies than to pitch things like CPG products or other brand categories.

“What kind of reputation risk could this have for teams or sports figures or influencers or actors who are engaging in this kind of marketing campaign or activity? Most likely they have good lawyers that would protect them against such things, but you never know.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a Forbes staff writer and editor of the Forbes CMO Network, leading coverage of marketing, advertising and technology with a specific focus on chief marketing

Source: In Crypto ‘Arms Race’ For Mass Adoption, Companies Ink Sports Deals Worth Hundreds Of Millions

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How To Build Digital Tools That Health Plan Members Will Use

According to recent Cognizant-sponsored research, to boost digital usage and member loyalty, healthcare payers need to prioritize investments in analytics, awareness, strategy and design, say Bill Shea and Jagan Ramachandran, leaders in Cognizant’s Healthcare practice.  

From our perspective, these lagging adoption rates are a result of payers underinvesting in awareness campaigns, analytics, strategy and design. Here are the steps payers can take to address these critical components of successful digital adoption.

1. Aggressively promote awareness of digital capabilities.

Our research over the last six years has shown increasing enthusiasm among members for conducting health plan transactions digitally. Yet even when health plans build desired digital features, members don’t use them. Our current survey shows that in 2020, when telehealth use was growing by 24%, 39% of plan members used telehealth capabilities — but from third-party service providers, not their health plans. At least one reason why is that 40% of members said they didn’t know their plans offered a telehealth option.

Payers must close these awareness gaps. Many do a poor job of promoting the tools they have and/or bury them several layers deep on their websites and don’t push them out to members when/where they need them most.

While payers often tell us, members don’t interact with them frequently enough to learn about their digital capabilities, the experience in the property and casualty insurance industry negates that excuse. The average consumer has far fewer property and auto claims in a year than they do healthcare claims. Yet P&C insurers enjoy much higher digital adoption rates than healthcare payers do, according to our research.

Why? P&C companies continually promote their apps and digital capabilities in their advertisements, websites, social feeds, etc. While they may use the apps infrequently, P&C customers do download them. Health insurers should similarly tout their digital capabilities in their marketing campaigns.

2. Make foundational investments in analytics.

Payers won’t get the value they expect from digital initiatives without strong analytics. Analytics and intelligence are prerequisites to anticipating member needs and prompting them to use a digital feature or other next best action in an app or on a website.

Analytics are also invaluable for learning about member needs. For example, most payers view call center deflection as a win. Analytics can help achieve that goal by learning from data about why and when members call for help so that payers can anticipate and proactively address those issues. If the data shows nine out of 10 members contacting the call center for updated deductible data after an emergency department visit, that function can be built into an app or website and advertised.

3. Adopt business-led strategy and design for each digital initiative.

Consumers today expect great digital experiences that payer tools don’t seem to deliver. However, health plan members reported unsatisfying experiences with payer tools, even when these tools offer self-service and other functions, they want most, such as provider search and cost estimation.

To avoid delivering disappointing member experiences, payers need to ensure the business, not IT, is leading these initiatives. In turn, the business must lead with in-depth strategy and design activities to ensure the digital capability meets actual member needs while creating business value.

Whereas business-led digital development follows a rigorous methodology that includes creating personas and journey maps and using outside-in analysis for examples of how other industries deliver similar solutions, IT-led development often starts with technology selection, and then fits processes to the technology’s capabilities. The business-led approach fully scopes out member needs first. These needs then drive the technology architecture design and technology selections so that the technology serves the business vision vs. defining it.

A large health plan we worked with took this approach to create new experiences for how brokers interact with members. We developed and designed personas, user journeys and eight future-state business processes before developing technology requirements.

4. Change funding mechanisms.

It’s accepted practice today to spend heavily on implementation while strategy and design efforts receive limited funds despite being prerequisites to successful outcomes. One organization we worked with was trying to build an industry-leading artificial intelligence model but lacked adequate budget to estimate ROI. Organizations must reallocate more budget to strategy and design efforts.

Advances in platform solutions that minimize customization needs support this funding shift. Organizations also must redefine how they identify OpEx and CapEx spend because many strategy and design efforts (e.g., journey maps, process models, business architecture, etc.) are critical to building required future capabilities and may be capitalized.

Our study revealed a number of immediate investment priorities for payers, including tools for estimating procedure costs, looking up benefits, searching for providers, finding plan options, reviews and features, checking on claims status, and calculating out-of-pocket expenses. But to realize high adoption and commensurate returns, payers must build these capabilities on a foundation of analytics and business-led strategy and design, followed by strong awareness campaigns.

By taking this approach, payers will set the stage for future member interactions that are more relational vs. transactional, such as health coaching, which will build loyalty and market share.

For more, read our report “Health Consumers Want Digital; It’s Time for Health Plans to Deliver,” produced in partnership with HFS Research.

Jagan Ramachandran is an Assistant Vice President and Partner in Cognizant’s Healthcare advisory practice. He leads Cognizant’s stakeholder experience management service line with over 20 years of experience at the intersection of healthcare business and technology. Jagan has executed a wide range of management consulting projects in the health plans space in the areas of digital strategy, member experience, broker experience, provider experience, establishing new lines of business, platform selection, M&A, and automation advisory. Jagan is a speaker on emerging trends in healthcare in several industry forums. He can be reached at Jagan.Ramachandran@cognizant.com

William “Bill” Shea is a Vice-President within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice. He has over 20 years of experience in management consulting, practice development and project management in the health industry across the payer, purchaser and provider markets. Bill has significant experience in health plan strategy and operations in the areas of digital transformation, integrated health management and product development. Bill can be reached at William.Shea@cognizant.com

Source: How To Build Digital Tools That Health Plan Members Will Use

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Why Managers Fear a Remote-Work Future

In 2019, Steven Spielberg called for a ban on Oscar eligibility for streaming films, claiming that “movie theaters need to be around forever” and that audiences had to be given “the motion picture theatrical experience” for a movie to be a movie. Spielberg’s fury was about not only the threat that streaming posed to the in-person viewing experience but the ways in which the streaming giant Netflix reported theatrical grosses and budgets, despite these not being the ways in which one evaluates whether a movie is good or not.

Netflix held firm, saying that it stood for “everyone, everywhere [enjoying] releases at the same time,” and for “giving filmmakers more ways to share art.” Ultimately, Spielberg balked, and last month his company even signed a deal with Netflix, likely because he now sees the writing on the wall: Modern audiences enjoy watching movies at home.

In key ways, this fight resembles the current remote-work debate in industries such as technology and finance. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, this has often been cast as a battle between the old guard and its assumed necessities and a new guard that has found a better way to get things done.

But the narrative is not that tidy. Netflix’s co-founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, one of the great “disruptors” of our age, deemed remote work “a pure negative” last fall. The 60-year-old Hastings is at the forefront of an existential crisis in the world of work, demanding that people return to the office despite not having an office himself. His criticism of remote work is that “not being able to get together in person” is bad.

Every business leader should ask themselves a few questions before demanding that their employees return to the office:

  1. Prior to March 2020, how many days a week were you personally in the office?
  2. How many teams did you directly interface with? What teams did you spend the most time with?
  3. Do you have an office? If you don’t, why not?
  4. What is office culture?
    1. What is your specific office’s culture?
  5. Has your business actually suffered because of remote work?
    1. If so, how? Be specific.

Some of the people loudly calling for a return to the office are not the same people who will actually be returning to the office regularly. The old guard’s members feel heightened anxiety over the white-collar empires they’ve built, including the square footage of real estate they’ve leased and the number of people they’ve hired. Earlier this year, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, rolled out an uneven return-to-office plan for its more than 130,000 employees—the majority of workers must soon come back to the office three days a week, while others are permitted to keep working exclusively from home. One senior executive at the company has even been allowed to work remotely from New Zealand.

Remote work lays bare many brutal inefficiencies and problems that executives don’t want to deal with because they reflect poorly on leaders and those they’ve hired. Remote work empowers those who produce and disempowers those who have succeeded by being excellent diplomats and poor workers, along with those who have succeeded by always finding someone to blame for their failures. It removes the ability to seem productive (by sitting at your desk looking stressed or always being on the phone), and also, crucially, may reveal how many bosses and managers simply don’t contribute to the bottom line.

I have run my own remote company that operates at the intersection of technology, media, and public relations since 2013. I retained an office for a year or so that I got rid of because it was really just a place to meet before going off to have drinks. For seven years before the pandemic, some of my peers showed concern that my business “wouldn’t succeed without an in-person team.”

Some people really do need to show up in person. I live in Las Vegas, a city of more than 600,000 people with more than 200,000 hospitality workers, and thus I’m keenly aware of which tasks require someone to physically be there to complete them. You can’t wash dishes over Zoom. You can’t change bed sheets over Slack. Blue-collar workers are the backbone of the city, as well as the Consumer Electronics Show that the tech elite uses to champion code-based products. Local hospitality workers suffered painfully during the pandemic as tourism in the city dried up, because their jobs depend on thriving physical spaces.

But for the tens of millions of us who spend most of our days sitting at a computer, the pandemic proved that remote work is just work. Every company that didn’t require someone to physically do something in a specific place was forced to become more efficient on cloud-based production tools, and the office started to feel like just another room with internet access.

While many executives and managers spent the early months of the pandemic telling their employees that “remote work wouldn’t work for us in the long term,” they are now forced to argue with the tangible proof of their still-standing business, making spurious statements like “We’ll miss the office culture and collaboration.”

Now, with the coronavirus’s Delta variant threatening to delay many companies’ return-to-office plans, the value of in-person work faces an even greater test. If you have unvaccinated kids or live with an immunocompromised person, is risking your family’s safety worth experiencing “serendipitous conversation” with your colleagues?

Should you ever go back to the office?

Last fall, 94 percent of employees surveyed in a Mercer study reported that remote work was either business as usual or better than working in the office, likely because it lacks the distractions, annoyances, and soft abuses that come with co-workers and middle managers. Workers are happier because they don’t have to commute and can be evaluated mostly on their actual work rather than on the optics-driven albatross of “office culture,” which is largely based on either the HR handbook or the pieces of the HR handbook your boss chooses to ignore.

The reason working from home is so nightmarish for many managers and executives is that a great deal of modern business has been built on the substrate of in-person work. As a society, we tend to consider management a title rather than a skill, something to promote people to, as well as a way in which you can abstract yourself from the work product.

When you remove the physical office space—the place where people are yelled at in private offices or singled out in meetings—it becomes a lot harder to spook people as a type of management. In fact, your position at a company becomes more difficult to justify if all you do is delegate and nag people.

When we are all in the same physical space, we are oftentimes evaluated not on our execution of our role but on our diplomacy—by which I mean our ability to kiss up to the right people rather than actually being a decent person. I have known so many people within my industry (and in others) who have built careers on “playing nice” rather than on producing something.

I have seen examples within companies I’ve worked with of people who have clearly stuck around because they’re well liked versus productive, and many, many people have responded to my newsletters on the topic of remote work with similar stories. I’ve also known truly terrible managers who have built empires, gaining VP and C-level positions, by stealing other people’s work and presenting it as their own, something that, according to research, is the No. 1 way to destroy employee trust.

These petty fiefdoms are far harder to maintain when everyone is remote. Although you may be able to get away with multiple passive-aggressive comments to colleagues in private meetings or calls, it’s much harder to be a jerk over Slack, email, and text when someone can screenshot it and send it to HR (or to a journalist).

Similarly, if your entire work product is boxing up other people’s production and sending it to the CEO, that becomes significantly harder to prove as your own in a fully digital environment—the producer in question can simply send it along themselves. Remote work makes who does and doesn’t actually do work way more obvious.

Even if we’re discussing some sort of theoretical, utopian office in which everybody is contributing and everyone gets along, each day during which a business doesn’t fail because of going remote proves that the return-to-office movement is unnecessary. Those in power who claim that remote work is unworkable are delaying an inevitable remote future by using logic that mostly comes down to “I like seeing the people I pay for in one place.” I have yet to read one compelling argument for a company that has gone remote to fully return to the office, mostly because the reasoning is rooted in control and ego.

We have lionized the founders, CEOs, and disruptors who nevertheless have intra-office reputations as abrasive geniuses who treat their workers as eminently replaceable. Because most private companies don’t share revenue, we frequently tie headcount and real estate to success. Removing the physical office forces modern businesses to start justifying themselves through annoying things such as “profit and loss” and “paying customers.”

When you hire someone, you’re (supposedly) hiring them to do a job in exchange for money. But the anti-remote crowd seems to believe that the responsibility of a 9-to-5 employee isn’t simply the work but the appearance, optics, and ceremony of the work. Abusive work cultures grow from this process too.

Making people work late is much harder when you can’t trap them in one place with free food, a Ping-Pong table, a kegerator, or laundry services—benefits that you champion instead of monetary compensation. When you are a full-time employee, you might believe that you are owned by a company and should be grateful to its leaders for generously making you show up in their office every day.

Which brings us back to Hollywood.

Forty-six summers ago, it wasn’t enough to see Spielberg’s first masterpiece, Jaws, and be scared; the whole point was to experience it with a bunch of other people in a shared space and feel something intangible. But our world has changed. Two years after trying to keep streaming movies out of the Oscars, Spielberg’s company, Amblin Partners—the studio behind such made-for-the-big-screen blockbusters as Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, and Back to the Futuresigned a deal with Netflix that, if nothing else, will mean more people will soon watch more movies at home.

Across multiple genres and decades, Spielberg has known his audience. The 74-year-old cinematic guru had to understand that whatever reservations he’d had about how and where people watched movies didn’t matter as much as making movies that people would see. Perhaps he realized that the world was evolving faster than he was, or that his judgments of streaming were antiquated and, on some level, anti-creative.

And perhaps we’ll see the business world follow suit.

By:  Ed Zitron

Ed Zitron is the writer of the tech and culture newsletter Where’s Your Ed At and the CEO of the technology public relations firm EZPR.

Source: Why People Like Working From Home – The Atlantic

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