Landing! Aim! Knockout! Crypto and sports activities collide in 2021
Cryptocurrencies and sports continue to clash in 2021 as well, with synergies between the two proving fruitful on several fronts.
The relationship between the sports world and the various uses of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology has slowly expanded in recent years. The humble beginnings of simple sponsorships building early branding for exchanges and payment platforms have grown to global recognition and inter-sector collaboration, with a variety of different use cases emerging in 2021.
From the NBA basketball courts to the soccer fields of Europe, crypto continues to build on new users and markets. In this New Years special, Cointelegraph highlights the ever-growing relationship between crypto and sports through 2021.
Here come the NFTs
Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) have become a household name in the past 12 months. The entertainment industry has been at the forefront of this expansion with artists, musicians, celebrities, brands, institutions and content creators diving headlong into the NFT craze to offer fans and collectors their own unique digital collectibles.
Sport has always been a mainstay of the entertainment industry, offering incomparable and unwritten moments that leave an indelible mark on fans around the world.
In the past, unique collectibles and memorabilia gave lucky fans the right to brag about their friends and family. The advent of NFTs has made this a digital domain where fans can purchase, trade, and display valuable NFTs on blockchain-based marketplaces and platforms.
The NBA has paved the way in that regard, turning season game video highlights into NFT collectibles that have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through the NBA top shot platform. The most expensive NBA Top Shot NFT, a legendary card with a dunk by Lebron James, sold for a staggering $ 230,000 in October 2020. These numbers are not to be sniffed at. And it only got better in 2021.
The world of American football has also found its way into both player and team levels. Tom Brady wrote himself in the NFL history books and has become a dominant figure in the business and entertainment worlds as a by-product of his success in the field.
In April he hit the headlines and launched his own NFT marketplace called Autograph. The platform has brought on board the biggest names in American sport as well as influential personalities from Hollywood actors, musicians and other entertainment figures to mint and sell unique digital collectibles.
We’re talking about golfers like Tiger Woods, sprinting sensation Usain Bolt, skateboarding icon Tony Hawk, American gymnast Simone Biles, and of course Brady herself, offering their own unique NFTs to collectors around the world.
Coming up next week on @Autograph: I’ve withdrawn five signature tricks and offer them in a collection that will last forever. Here’s one that I recently did for the last time: Varial 540. This trick has caused me a lot of whiplash injuries for over 30 years, but I had to pull it off. @DraftKings pic.twitter.com/iK6T2vtTex
– Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) December 8, 2021
Brady’s longtime NFL partner Rob Gronkowski raised the bar with his own Championship Series digital NFT trading card auction ahead of Autograph’s launch. The series consisted of four unique “GRONK Career Highlight Refractor Cards”, each of which had 87 digital editions for sale, while a fifth stand-alone Career Highlight card was the lottery ticket price.
The auction lasted two days and a total of 349 trading cards and the unique career highlight card were auctioned off to 95 different owners. The total trading value of the auction was 1,014 ethers (ETH), valued at $ 1.8 million at the time of sale. Gronk joined Autograph to launch other NFTs.
English boxer Tyson Fury has established himself as the top heavyweight of recent times after another devastating defeat by Deontay Wilder in October. Following that success, the stocky British boxer launched his own NFT, which auctioned for $ 987,000.
In Europe, Sorare has established itself as a major player in soccer NFT and fantasy sports. The marketplace powered by Ethereum makes it easy to mint and trade NFTs, which are very popular with soccer fans. Users can buy and trade digital player cards that reflect the performance of their real players. Collectors can use their digital player cards to put together a five-man team to compete in fantasy leagues.
Socios is the other big player in the world of European soccer NFTs, digital trading cards and collectibles. The platform enables clubs to issue fan tokens on their proprietary blockchain, which enables fans to vote on club decisions such as kit changes, access exclusive content and participate in other community activities. In 2021, Socios has sold $ 250 million worth of fan tokens since its inception, while the market capitalization of the Sports Fan token space has grown 60% over the last six months of the year.
Sports brands are trying to keep up with the times too, and the rise of the Metaverse has pushed two of the world’s largest sports brands into space thanks to strategic partnerships with industry participants.
Adidas entered the NFT space by minting an NFT that will serve as a digital token giving Metaverse users access to Adidas digital wearables. The NFT consisted of 30,000 copies, mostly tokens, that were auctioned off. The opening weekend brought in more than 11,300 ETH sales, valued at $ 43 million at the time, as Metaverse users flocked to snag their Adidas swag.
Impossible is (probably) nothing
– adidas Originals (@adidasoriginals) December 20, 2021
Determined to keep up with its competitors, Nike followed suit and acquired RTFKT, one of the largest NFT collections on Opensea, to mint its own Nike wearables and items in the ever-growing Metaverse.
Seen by millions
Marketing and advertising are big business, and the world of sports has long been an excellent vehicle for reaching large audiences to market products, services and offerings. Big brands have done this to great effect for decades, and cryptocurrency firms and service providers have been taking full advantage of it lately.
The branding of Crypto.com can be seen on the football pitches of the largest European leagues, in the octagon of the extremely popular UFC and on the racetracks of the thrilling Formula 1 roadshow. The company has sponsored sponsorship deals with leagues, teams and organizations in all of these areas in order to reach a diverse and large audience.
The cryptocurrency trader and entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried and his trading platform for cryptocurrency derivatives FTX also have good relationships with American sports this year. FTX acquired the naming rights to Miami Heat Stadium in early 2021 in a $ 135 million deal that runs through 2040.
From our family to yours ❤️ pic.twitter.com/oHMg9VPIWF
– FTX Arena (@FTXArena) December 25, 2021
The exchange also secured prime-time commercial airtime for the 2022 NFL Super Bowl, one of the biggest sporting events in America, to attract new users.
Coinbase, America’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, scored a major slam dunk at the NBA after signing a multi-year contract as the exclusive cryptocurrency platform partner of the league and its various subsidiaries, affiliated leagues and brands.
Rugby is a huge sport in South Africa and the country’s national springbok team has a lot of support from the reigning world champions. When the UK and Irish Lions toured South Africa, the Luno cryptocurrency exchange ran a commercial in which Springboks rugby director Rassie Erasmus trained viewers “how easy it is to tackle Bitcoin” as the exchange has a large audience wanted to start trading cryptocurrencies on its platform.
This is a prime example of localized and global advertising bringing cryptocurrencies to a wider audience, which will only draw more people into an area that aims to achieve mass adoption in the decades to come. 2021 has done some important preparatory work on this front.
Convert that $ to BTC
A number of sports stars have begun paving a path for people to start accepting or allocating part of their salary for receiving or buying cryptocurrencies.
NFL players have made headlines again by either receiving or investing in cryptocurrencies with posts from Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Rodgers, Trevor Lawrence and Saquon Barkley.
Related: 7 NFL Players Who Chose Crypto Over Cash Salaries
Tom Brady appears here again after acquiring a stake in Bankman-Frieds FTX, which in addition to his role as a brand ambassador for the company, also receives payments in cryptocurrency.
Down under in Australia, the Perth Heat baseball club has signed a contract with the Bitcoin payment processor OpenNode to pay some of its players and employees in BTC. Again, adoption takes place in decentralized parts of the world.
Strange and wonderful
There have been isolated cases when cryptocurrency and the sports world collided. This is the third time that Tom Brady is featured, and for an equally good reason. In October, Brady became the first NFL quarterback in history to throw 600 touchdown passes. He whipped the ball at teammate Mike Evans, who scored the touchdown. The Buccaneers wide receiver tossed the ball into the crowd after scoring a goal and presented a lucky fan with a priceless memento.
During the game, an official managed to chat with the fan and Brady offered the lucky viewer 1 bitcoin (BTC) to return the historic ball. That 1 BTC was worth $ 62,000 while the value of the actual ball that hit the milestone was estimated to be between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million.
It wasn’t all good news as some mishaps happened by 2021. Manchester City and Barcelona, known in their respective leagues, have had to shut down deals with smaller cryptocurrency firms for various reasons, which served as a reminder that the space is still nascent and some projects and firms may not deliver that Products and services they want to offer.
Spanish football legend Andrés Iniesta was warned online by a Spanish regulator for promoting Binance on its Twitter and Instagram profiles. The National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) warned hours later in a tweet of “significant risks from unregulated products”.
It’s pretty harmless, but it suggests that the integration of cryptocurrencies and related offshoots into the world of sports can sometimes border on the unknown. Some things work fantastic and gain traction while others don’t have the same success, but the adoption train continues.