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Sports Media: Cryptocurrency could be the next big ad spender in sports television

The gambling category has emerged as the newest and shiniest star of the television ad sales marketplace this fall, drawing comparisons to 2015 when daily fantasy companies DraftKings and FanDuel invested hundreds of millions of dollars in TV ads.

 

Network executives unanimously describe today’s ad sales market, particularly for NFL games, as the best they’ve seen in years. And they are giving the bulk of the credit to gambling-focused companies, a new category that is limited to just six ads per game, per league rules.

But another ad sales category is cropping up and appears ready to explode: cryptocurrency. Crypto companies have not been especially active in the U.S. market yet but industry sources predict that crypto could grow into a $100 million category for sports television over the next 12 months.

The reason for such optimism: A new deal Fox Sports signed with Crypto.com around college football. The deal, which is believed to be in the mid-seven figures, gives the cryptocurrency company a presenting sponsorship for the “College Football Extra” postgame show on both Fox’s broadcast network and FS1.

Crypto.com’s new deal with Fox Sports will give the site a foothold in college football.getty images

Starting in mid-October, Crypto.com will run commercials throughout Fox Sports’ fall programming, including college football, postseason baseball and the NFL.

This isn’t the first crypto ad buy in the U.S. Other companies have dipped their toe in the market and bought commercial time.

The reason I am devoting so much space to what is essentially the presenting sponsorship of a studio show is because this campaign could become a harbinger for much more activity in the category. 

“We’re a five-year-old company — we haven’t been around forever,” said Crypto.com CMO Steven Kalifowitz. “It’s really important for us that people start to recognize our logo and name. We are focused on the maturing of the category.”

Indeed, that latter sentiment represents the important part of this deal. One of Kalifowitz’s goals, in addition to promoting its own brand, is to help make the cryptocurrency category better known. He cited internal stats that show the number of crypto users more than doubled from June 2020 to June 2021, from less than 100 million to more than 220 million.

“This is the year where things are starting to move a lot faster,” he said. “Part of our mission as a company is to accelerate the world’s transition to cryptocurrencies. We decided to move forward on this.”

Other crypto companies are waiting in the wings and will be looking for ways to stand out from each other. That’s where sports media deals will come into play.

“The disintermediation of media is complete,” he said. “Live sport is really the one place left to capture substantial audiences in meaningful ways.”

Kalifowitz understands the power of live sports, he says, because Crypto.com already has been active in the sports sponsorship space. It has a partnership with the UFC, putting the company’s brand on apparel worn by the fighters and their cornermen. It also is one of Formula One’s seven global partners.

“With UFC and Formula One, we’re working with leagues that have a lot of control over the assets during each event and can integrate us deeply into the sport,” Kalifowitz said. “In the U.S., there are other sports where teams have rights and leagues have other rights and broadcasters have different rights.”

Cypto.com’s Fox deal includes a media buy, of course. But Kalifowitz was even more happy about the presenting sponsorship, which he said would allow Crypto.com “to introduce ourselves to new people and connect with them on a regular basis.”

Crypto.com’s plan is to introduce the brand early in the college football season before ramping up the campaign in mid-to-late October.

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ and read his twice-weekly newsletter.

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