The Magnificent Game. Soccer, or football, as some from the “old world” prefer to refer to it. It is a sport with numerous names and a fan following of approximately 4 billion people.
Football’s power is undeniable. Its top players, the Ronaldos and Messis, are among the world’s most recognisable individuals. Its most popular teams have millions of followers spread around the globe, and its broadcasters reach more than half of the world’s population. According to Deloitte, the European football industry alone generated 25 billion euros in revenue in 2020, indicating the sport’s value in the world’s largest arena.
Football’s success is largely owing to its simplicity as a game, which has ultimately resulted in the greatest leagues and competitions attracting vast crowds and earning substantial cash for all parties involved. Whether through team sponsorships or marketing on broadcasts and advertising space, football’s sheer scale makes it an ideal medium for brands and enterprises of all types to reach a large audience.
While the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries are still in their infancy, they are rapidly reinventing banking and remittance, individual wealth sovereignty, and a variety of other use cases. Numerous corporations and organisations have introduced the world of cryptocurrency into the football arena in a variety of methods, but they have swiftly established relationships with some of the game’s top players, teams, and competitions as a result.
This is precisely how cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology were presented to worldwide football audiences and applied to some of the industry’s most popular applications.
Tapping into a huge audience
Football is the world’s most watched sport, having captured the imaginations of billions throughout its history. This audience consists of all types of fans, from die-hards to casual viewers and impartials.
The passion for the game has created an ecosystem that extends well beyond what is seen on television, from the tangible world of clothing and memorabilia to the digital world of prediction games, fantasy sports, and betting. Both domains are good candidates for improvement as a result of the diverse use cases offered by blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
Skrill, a worldwide payments corporation with a strong history in European football, is one such company hoping to disrupt the game. According to Rupinder Singh, senior vice president of consumer and digital wallets at Skrill, the company began sponsoring football in 2013 in the United Kingdom’s Football Conference league, while its parent company Paysafe’s other digital wallet, Neteller, became a sponsor of Premier League club Crystal Palace at the same time.
Skrill’s payments portfolio includes a cryptocurrency wallet that enables customers to securely store and manage a variety of tokens. Since its humble beginnings as a sponsor of third-tier football eight years ago, the company’s footprint in European football has increased dramatically.
Who would have bet few years ago that there would tokens, digital assets on the front of jerseys? This is an investment we made to make a strong statement about digital assets globally. pic.twitter.com/WJ05PY2mIb
— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) September 26, 2021
Skrill signed an official partnership agreement with United Kingdom Premier League team Leeds United in March 2021, their latest high-profile sponsorship deal in recent years. It had already teamed with A.C. Milan of Italy’s Serie A last year. It also has a presence in the United States through its sponsorship of Los Angeles-based team LA 10 FC, which competes in the United Premier Soccer League.
One could ask how bitcoin and blockchain enterprises might collaborate with the football industry from the outside looking in. The solution is found in history, as marketing via advertising channels has been tried and proven in the football industry for decades by many brands.
Singh feels that “the football audience is one of the most digitally savvy audiences in terms of the content they consume, the way they communicate with their teams or with one another in online communities, and the way they entertain themselves through sports gambling or fantasy sports.” He believes that the transition to cryptocurrency is a natural progression for this group of potential clients. Additionally, Singh believes that many other enterprises in the cryptocurrency industry might gain by involvement in the football ecosystem:
“Football will likely always be of interest to crypto companies as long as they continue to see the behaviors of their customers mirror those of football fans, plus the obvious reach and impact that the sport has in every market across the world.”
Crypto.com is another cryptocurrency company that has begun to appear on advertising boards at arenas and stadiums worldwide. Crypto.com’s branding has been featured on pitchside advertising as a result of a cooperation with the Italian Serie A. According to Crypto.com chief marketing officer Steven Kalifowitz, a decision was made to begin advertising in the football space towards the end of 2020, and there has been no delay in implementing that choice.
Paris Saint-Germain F.C., the French football giant, also welcomed the company as its “Official Cryptocurrency Platform Partner” in 2021. PSG would issue exclusive nonfungible tokens and pay a “substantial” percentage of the sponsorship money in its native Crypto.com Coin as part of the deal.
Borussia Dortmund, a premier football team in Germany, has also partnered with a cryptocurrency startup. The cryptocurrency derivatives market is expanding. Bybit earned a sponsorship arrangement that was announced late in 2020 and was ostensibly designed to assist Dortmund’s brand grow in Asia.
Exchange of cryptocurrencies
BitMEX’s emblem is now featured on the left sleeve of A.C. Milan’s men’s, women’s, and esports teams’ jerseys, following the company’s agreement to become the Italian club’s official cryptocurrency trading partner.
Bringing digital scarcity to big brandsNo other industry has embraced the NFT trend as quickly as sports has. There is no better example of ideal synergy between blockchain-based NFTs, tokens, and sports fans than the NBA Top Shot ecosystem.
For decades, memorabilia, collectibles, valued signatures, and player and team cards have been popular, with collectors deriving tremendous pleasure from displaying their prized, uncommon belongings. The emergence of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies permitted the digital evolution of nonfungibility, allowing athletes, teams, and companies to build unique and verifiable digital assets. They’ve become enormously popular – and this popularity has spilled over into the football world in a significant manner.
Nicolas Julia and co-founder Adrien Montfort launched Sorare, an Ethereum-based marketplace that enables the minting and trading of a variety of non-fungible tokens and tokens, in 2018, with an eye toward the football industry. Julia tells Magazine that blockchain technology is capable of much more than simply collecting cards:
“As two huge football fans, we decided to create scarce digital cards mixed with one of the most coveted intellectual property in the world, football players. Now we had scarce and branded digital collectibles. But since these collectibles are digital, we can give them utility. We’ve made this new class of collectibles usable in a compelling fantasy game.”
The platform is extremely popular among football enthusiasts around Europe and the world. Since January 2021, it has facilitated over $170 million in transaction volume, which Julia anticipates will nearly quadruple by the end of the year. It seems audacious, but it makes sense given the calibre of clubs and players on the platform.
Gerard Piqué, a Barcelona and Spain stalwart, is an excellent example of a player who has embraced cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. The footballer launched media and entertainment company Kosmos, which is investigating blockchain methods for maximising the commercial potential of teams and brands.
According to Julia, he was also instrumental in the growth of Sorare: “Gerard Piqué was one of the first to recognise the enormous potential of our new game, owing to NFT.” By investing, he aided us in improving the gameplay and expanding our reach within the football environment.”
We’re excited to announce an exclusive #NFT partnership with 50 legends of the beautiful game 🔥
50 unforgettable seasons
50 reasons we love the beautiful game
50 cards worthy of their legend ⚽
— Sorare (@SorareHQ) September 23, 2021
While the platform’s aspirations are evident, Sorare’s current state requires serious groundwork considering the novelty of blockchain technology and NFTs. With foundations laid with some initial clubs, the growth snowballed, as Julia explains:
“As Sorare is a new game, leveraging a new technology such as the ERC-721, we had to educate a lot, explain how it worked, and why it was interesting for them. But now, with more than 180+ partnering clubs, we’ve built trust and credibility amongst different sports organizations.”
The Sorare CEO stated that agreements with major clubs have been crucial in increasing the platform’s reach and credibility.
Singh added his voice to the NFT discussion, noting the “inevitable” digitalization of football items in light of NBA Top Shot’s popularity. According to him, the technology enables fans to check the scarcity of the assets they own and participate in a secondary market to trade with other fans from all around the world:
“Fintech entrepreneurs have made it even easier for supporters to communicate directly with the club by introducing ‘fan tokens’ issued on the blockchain.”
Socios is the other significant player in the field of NFTs, digital trading cards, and collectibles for European football. Singh demonstrates a tangible use case for fan tokens by highlighting how top European clubs including as Barcelona, Juventus, and A.C. Milan are issuing supporter tokens using the Socios blockchain.
The tokens enable fans to voice their opinions on club matters such as kit changes, access to unique content, and participation in other community activities.
You’re not a fan of the newly planned yellow away uniform for the upcoming season. With your Barcelona tokens, vote for the light blue option. Everything is stored on a blockchain, which creates a transparent, immutable ecosystem for fan engagement and input. Want to choose your favourite music to play following Paulo Dybala’s screamer on Derby Day? Load the app, collect some coins, and go to work.
Alexandre Dreyfus, CEO of Socios, discussed his company’s journey with Magazine, emphasising his ambition to build an ecosystem that provides fans worldwide with unique experiences and influence over their favourite teams while also assisting in the growth of the digital economy: “Nearly 99 percent of supporters of the world’s biggest teams have never set foot inside the stadiums of their favourite clubs.”
Dreyfus believes that the ultimate goal is to “bring these supporters closer to their teams while also enabling football clubs to generate new revenue streams through worldwide fan involvement.” Both Sorare and Socios are powered by blockchain technology, and Dreyfus emphasises the technology’s importance and value in enabling the ecosystem to work as it does:
“Blockchain technology also protects the integrity of fan voting on the app, as the results are transparent and immutable. Also, the ability to create a finite amount of these assets, which can be owned and held by fans, is important. It gives fans a sense of ownership over their teams they’ve never had before.”
Football is driving crypto adoption
Football has begun to impact the acceptance and use of cryptocurrencies and digital assets via direct marketing and user exposure to blockchain-powered services.
There is disagreement regarding which scenario generates greater value and understanding. All participants who shared their perspectives with Magazine provided concrete examples of why their collaborations with football clubs, businesses, and organisations have been fruitful.
According to Julia of Sorare, this comes down to coupling technology with an easy-to-use, functional solution: “The key is to provide tangible applications for emerging technologies.” Sorare provides straightforward benefits to football enthusiasts. We remove all impediments to engagement.”
Goals, penalties, controversy, it had it all! 😯
— Skrill (@skrill) October 26, 2020
Sukhbir Singh, CEO of Skrill, advocates for the mutual benefits that the football business and bitcoin exchanges and service providers should enjoy together.
It has been part of the turbulent relationship between the two sectors once again to provide a solution that is of interest and value to an increasing section of the worldwide football viewership:
“As the most popular sport in the world, football will continue to be the first option for new industries who are trying to grow in influence, but there have been plenty that have not been successful because they don’t have the correct synergy with the sport or the audience.”
Dreyfus of Socios feels that the realm of blockchain-based non-financial transactions (NFTs), collectibles, and fantasy games has found a natural place in the football market. He believes that the symbiotic environment created by bitcoin exchanges, service providers, and corporations could have a greater influence than advertising and sponsorships now being used by these entities:
“It was always inevitable that as the blockchain/crypto space grew more and more, companies would seek partnerships with football teams in order to build awareness. The difference is that we have a product that has been specifically created for football and sports fans in general. We belong in that space much more than exchanges or other blockchain-related projects.”
These companies derive and provide value to and from the football industry in a variety of ways, but their combined efforts have made the most of the opportunities given by these interactions. Regardless of how you look at it, more people around the world are becoming acquainted with the bitcoin area as they watch football matches.
The breakaway moment
While the bitcoin ecosystem has taken advantage of the huge reach of the football business in a variety of ways, there is still a long way to go until the two industries are fully integrated together. In spite of the fact that numerous cryptocurrency platforms are advertising on the world’s greatest stage, the cryptocurrency field is still in its early stages of development.
In many cases, newcomers to cryptocurrency and NFTs are still learning the fundamentals of the technology, and this will continue to be a barrier to entry until more people are educated on the ins and outs of the industry. Additionally, liquidity in NFT marketplaces and volatility in the value of individual fan tokens are both teething difficulties that are steadily becoming less severe as the industry develops and becomes more established.
With the engagement of the cryptocurrency business in the football space, it is inevitable that new consumers will be introduced to the benefits of cryptocurrencies and blockchain-powered platforms. As more users enter the area as a result of an introduction from football, the synergy between the sectors will address these concerns over time as more people watch football in the space.