More and more sports organizations are starting to embrace the Web3 space, providing fans with new ways to interact with their teams.
Let’s take a closer look at what sports organizations and famous athletes actively use digital assets in their activities and how they accomplish it.
Football is one of the most popular sports in the world. No wonder that football clubs have been the most active in integrating digital technologies into their processes.
Some famous FCs have partnered with the blockchain platform Socios to issue their own fan tokens. Fans can now buy and use the tokens to vote on various club decisions and receive exclusive bonuses and privileges. Among the clubs participating in the system are:
- Paris Saint-Germain (France);
- Arsenal, Manchester City, and West Ham United (the U.K.);
- Juventus and Roma (Italy);
- Atlético de Madrid (Spain);
- Galatasaray (Turkey).
Football clubs are entering the cryptocurrency market by collaborating with other blockchain platforms. For example, Portuguese Benfica has partnered with Utrust, so tickets for the team’s matches can be purchased for BTC, ETH, and other cryptocurrencies. Bayern Munich has created an NFT collection with digital copies of the club’s players via the Stryking Entertainment platform. Fans can buy tokens and organize virtual competitions. Real Madrid fans can access exclusive club videos through the Fantastec SWAP blockchain platform.
Since 2021, CoinsPaid has sponsored Aris Limassol FC, which won the Cyta Championship and the Cypriot Super Cup in the 2022/23 season. Thanks to the partnership, fans could vote for the team’s best player and participate in several educational seminars on Web3 from the company.
Basketball clubs also embrace blockchain in their business processes and as a tool for interacting with fans.
For instance, the Sacramento Kings from California, the National Basketball Association (NBA) team, became the first major sports organization to start accepting Bitcoin for buying tickets and stadium merchandise. The Dallas Mavericks from Texas also followed suit.
In 2018, the Houston Rockets from Texas were sponsored by the AntPool mining pool. This was the first time in NBA history that a team was funded by crypto-assets.
The Golden State Warriors partnered with Nifty Inc. in 2021 and issued NFT digital collectible cards. Cryptocurrencies have allowed fans to invest in equity stakes in basketball clubs such as the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors. This was made possible via the SportBLX platform.
In 2021, crypto exchange Crypto.com entered into an agreement with the iconic Staples Center basketball arena in downtown Los Angeles for $713 million. The sports complex has been renamed the Crypto.com Arena for the next 20 years.
Hockey teams aren’t lagging behind in the adoption of cryptocurrencies either. Fans of the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning playing in the National Hockey League (NHL) can buy tickets to the teams’ games with BTC and some other cryptocurrencies as payment. The Buffalo Sabres fans can purchase exclusive merchandise at the team’s official stadium with digital assets. The Dallas Stars hockey team works closely with Crypto.com and also allows fans to use cryptocurrencies to interact with the team.
The Vegas Golden Knights team can provide their fans with access to exclusive content thanks to their partnership with the Surprise platform. For example, a fan of the team can be given an NFT pass to practice.
The NHL management is also actively exploring the digital space. For instance, the 2022/23 hockey season will be thoroughly covered in an NFT compilation. The tokens will be created through a partnership with the NFT platform Sweet and feature the season’s best players or the league’s highlights.
As the national sport in the United States, baseball has also been a field of active adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies in business processes. In 2021, the Major League Baseball (MLB) partnered with FTX to place the company’s logos on stadiums and umpire patches across North America. MLB didn’t renew the contract after the company’s bankruptcy last year and got more critical of crypto sponsors, though they didn’t give up on them entirely.
The MLB’s case was followed by other baseball teams. For example, the Oakland Athletics were the first club in the league to offer tickets for BTC. The primary sponsor of the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Guardians is Crypto.com. Fans of both teams can get special bonuses and access to exclusive content via cryptocurrencies.
The Miami Marlins managers took a different route and entered into an agreement with the betting platform FanDuel, thanks to which the team’s fans can bet on the club winning or losing using crypto.
In 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers team released an NFT collection of digital cards and baseball-related items. Each token provided the owner with a ticket to the team’s game and the privilege of a first pitch experience during the game. All proceeds from token sales were donated to charity.
The first professional baseball players to start receiving their salaries in crypto were the players of the Australian team Perth Heat. In 2021, the team’s managers signed an agreement with the Lightning Network, a Layer 2 protocol for Bitcoin. The team changed its official logo, adding the logo of the first cryptocurrency.
Representatives of the baseball industry distinguished themselves by becoming the first to enter into a sponsorship agreement with the DAO. In 2022, the decentralized autonomous organization behind the Terra ecosystem sponsored the Washington Nationals team. The deal amounted to $40 million. The DAO members made a collective decision, voting with tokens, on where Terra’s logos and digital signage would be placed. In particular, it was decided to rename the VIP grandstand at the club’s home arena, Nationals Park, to the Terra Club.
Cryptocurrencies and Web3 initiatives are popular among American football players. Starting in 2019, Litecoin is the official cryptocurrency of the Miami Dolphins professional rugby team. Using the digital asset, the team’s fans can buy tickets for any match, exclusive merchandise, or paraphernalia.
Cryptocurrencies have also made their way into the world of professional racing. In 2021, NASCAR driver Landon Cassill was the first athlete in the history of the league to receive his salary in digital assets. The driver drove a total of 19 races paid in BTC and LTC.
Logos of crypto exchanges often appear on F1 cars as the organizations act as team sponsors. Some of the well-known partnerships are:
- FTX and Mercedes-AMG Petronas;
- Binance and BWT Alpine;
- Bybit and Oracle Red Bull Racing;
- OKX and McLaren F1 Team;
- Crypto.com and Aston Martin.
Tennis players haven’t neglected digital technology either. Naomi Osaka, the former world No. 1 ranked player, got interested in the hype around meme coins and invested part of her money in Dogecoin. A year later, she became an ambassador of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Her main opponent Serena Williams is one of the investors of the crypto exchange Coinbase. The infamous French tennis player Benoit Paire started to get paid in digital assets.
Professional golfers also appreciated the prospects of cryptocurrencies and wished to receive their salaries in BTC. Thus, the prize fund of the Sunshine Tour of South Africa 2022 was fully sponsored by the crypto exchange Luno, paying the winner in the first cryptocurrency.
MMA fighters Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway showed another interesting way to incorporate Web3 into their professional sports careers. Two former UFC champions met in the virtual ring in the Metaverse of the LegionFarm platform.
Well-known athletes are attracted to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies. Some actively promote crypto initiatives on social media, get paid in cryptocurrencies, or launch NFT projects.
The first professional athlete who started receiving BTC for his skills was forward Nikolaj Rosenthal of the Danish ice hockey team Rungsted. In 2017, the Bitcoin Suisse trading platform became the new primary sponsor of the team, and the athlete agreed to such a venture. In 2020, Russell Okung, a professional American football player, started receiving part of his salary in crypto. Many famous athletes followed suit.
Sports teams even buy players for cryptocurrencies. For example, the transfer of ex-Real Madrid striker David Barral to Internacional de Madrid in 2021 was fully paid for with crypto. This was the first case in FIFA’s history but by no means the last.
Well-known athletes often become the faces of ad campaigns for various cryptocurrency projects. Over the past few years, many famous athletes have actively promoted crypto projects. For instance, ex-UFC champion Conor McGregor joined the Swiss crypto exchange Tiger.Trade as an ambassador, while four-time NBA champion Steph Curry and NFL player Tom Brady were the faces of FTX.
However, such partnerships haven’t always turned out to be profitable. Famous boxer Floyd Mayweather was fined $615,000 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for participating in the advertising campaign of the crypto project Centra, which got shut down due to the Rug Pull.
There are many such examples, as scammers often use famous individuals to attract user attention. Frequently, it happens even without their knowledge. For example, Mike Tyson long denied the connection with the dubious project Fight to Fame, which used his photo to collect investments. Ronaldinho even had to testify in court to prove his non-involvement in the scam project 18kRonaldinho.
Lots of big names in sports have released their NFT collections, including:
- hockey legend Alexander Ovechkin;
- absolute world heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk;
- basketball star Shaquille O’Neal;
- rugby player Jonah Lomu;
- Croatian tennis player Oleksandra Oliynykova;
- baseball player Micah Johnson;
- professional boxer Tyson Fury;
- football player Wayne Rooney;
- UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping;
- chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and others.
Several famous athletes have also issued their own cryptocurrencies:
- Manny Pacquiao, a professional boxer who has held world titles at various times by all major associations, issued PAC Coin on the Global Crypto Offering Exchange (GCOX) in 2018;
- Ronaldinho, the legendary Brazilian football player, released the Ronaldinho Soccer Coin on the Neo platform after his career ended in 2018;
- Dennis Rodman, a former American basketball player and five-time NBA champion, became one of the ambassadors of the cannabis cryptocurrency PotCoin in 2017, but rumor has it that he’s also the Co-Founder of the project.
It’s worth noting that every year, more and more athletes actively fund different blockchain companies and crypto projects on their own initiative. Among them are tennis player Serena Williams, who has invested in several tech startups; former English football player Michael Owen, who actively supports crypto investments; and Cristiano Ronaldo, who often talks about crypto investments on social media. Lionel Messi recently supported Bitget’s Blockchain4Youth educational project, and American basketball player LeBron James teaches children the basics of cryptocurrencies and blockchain through the I Promise School platform.
Some athletes have given up professional activities altogether, deciding to focus on cryptocurrencies. For instance, American baseball player Tyler Adkison finished his professional career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, founded a crypto hedge fund BlockTerra Capital LLC, and started developing it.
To sum up, it should be emphasized that crypto and blockchain innovations provided the sports industry not only with new sources of funding but also diversified the ways of interacting with fans and supporters. What’s more, Web3 technologies are bringing more and more new opportunities for making money, communication, self-expression, and entertainment to the world of sports every year.