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.”

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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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SPAC Success Can Hinge on This Single Factor

For founders looking to take their company public, special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) offer a less risky, shorter alternative to traditional IPOs, if a few best practices are observed. In a SPAC, companies are formed in order to raise capital in an initial public offering and then uses the cash to acquire a private company, thereby taking it public, usually within a two-year time frame.

The process recently has become popular, especially because SPACs allow founders to avoid the extensive disclosures mandated by the traditional IPO process. Often, SPAC investors don’t even know the startup they will be acquiring–earning SPACs the nickname of “blank-check companies.” In 2021, there were 30 percent more SPAC issuances than traditional IPOs, according to The Financial Times.

But if you’re considering a blank-check deal, keep in mind that there’s one factor that is the best determinant of success. According to Wolfe Research, SPACs led by “experienced operators,” or CEOs with direct operating experience in the industry of the company being acquired, had greater returns on average than those that did not. The research found that just one year out, SPACs with experienced operators averaged a 73 percent rally, whereas those lacking an industry veteran suffered a 14 percent loss on average.

As reported by CNBC, a rather volatile market led some SPAC deals to unravel, causing companies to settle for less-than-optimal targets or change the deal all together. For this reason, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors in March to re-consider putting money in SPACs, especially those run by celebrities.

“It is never a good idea to invest in a SPAC just because someone famous sponsors or invests in it or says it is a good investment,” the SEC wrote on its website. That’s why if you’re considering a SPAC, don’t be swayed by big dollar amounts or celebrity names. Instead, think carefully about the experience that the blank-check company leaders are bringing to the table.

By Brit Morse, Assistant editor, Inc.

Source: SPAC Success Can Hinge on This Single Factor | Inc.com

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Critics:

Special Purpose Acquisition Company  also known as a “blank check company“, is a shell corporation listed on a stock exchange with the purpose of acquiring a private company, thus making it public without going through the traditional initial public offering process. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “A SPAC is created specifically to pool funds in order to finance a merger or acquisition opportunity within a set timeframe. The opportunity usually has yet to be identified”. SPACs raised a record $82 billion in 2020, a period sometimes referred to as the “blank check boom”.

Because a SPAC is registered with the SEC and is a publicly-traded company, the general public can buy its shares before the merger or acquisition takes place. For this reason they’ve been referred to as the ‘poor man’s private equity funds.’

Academic analysis shows the investor returns on SPACs post-merger are almost uniformly heavily negative (however, sponsors at the flotation of the SPAC can earn excess returns), and their proliferation usually accelerates around periods of economic bubbles, such as the everything bubble in 2020–2021, when the volume and quantity of capital raised by SPACs set new all-time records.

SPACs generally trade as units and/or as separate common shares and warrants on the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange (as of 2008) once the public offering has been declared effective by the SEC, distinguishing the SPAC from a blank check company formed under SEC Rule 419. Commonly, units are denoted with the letter “u” (for unit) appended to the ticker symbol of SPAC shares.

Trading liquidity of the SPAC’s securities provide investors with a flexible exit strategy. In addition, the public currency enhances the position of the SPAC when negotiating a business combination with a potential merger or acquisition target. The common share price must be added to the trading price of the warrants to get an accurate picture of the SPAC’s performance.

References

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