The sponsorship of high-profile sports and teams may hold the key to legitimizing the crypto industry for the general masses, according to Luke Ryan, head of content at Australian crypto exchange CoinJar.
In May 2021, the exchange became the first crypto company in Australia to sponsor an Australian Football League (AFL) club by partnering with the Melbourne Demons.
Speaking to TBEN at the Australian Crypto Convention on Sept. 18, Ryan noted that the AFL partnership has changed the discussion of cryptocurrency in the country and that “it gives cryptocurrency a greater sense of sustainability.”
“Maybe before this real hit in the sports mainstream, it was really easy for a lot of people to think ‘oh, this cryptocurrency thing, it’s going to fade, or it’s already faded,’” he said.
“There is a real statement of intent by the industry, not necessarily about ‘we sponsor this team, and then we have X number of new users’, it’s more about sponsoring this team because we want to show the world that we are companies with consequences, with plans and long-term visions, and one way to show that is to align ourselves with a really established presence.”
Ryan believes that sports partnerships also give crypto companies the opportunity to break new ground in terms of their user base and adoption.
He noted that part of what led CoinJar to partner with an AFL team was the idea of promoting crypto and the exchange “beyond the established real believers who already have their favorite platforms.”
“At some point, you’re all hacking the same market,” he added.
“It’s a really ongoing question for cryptocurrency as a whole, how do we go from this 5 to 10% that we’re talking about right now, to the 20 to 50%, and we’ve started to think a little bit more about what it might look like to become more actively involved in sponsorship.”
The partnership between CoinJar and the Melbourne Demons has also allowed other teams and the AFL itself to learn more about crypto, which Ryan says has more normalized ownership for the organization.
“It meant they had the space to ask questions and look at it a bit more and say ‘ah, that’s pretty interesting, we could really use that to build a better relationship with the fans.’ “
“I think it’s leading to a much more open attitude towards things like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and how they can be leveraged, it’s all still paramount in the AFL sphere, but I’m sure there’s very active discussions that the AFL has had going on.”
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Ryan says the speculative nature of crypto is “undeniably what has brought many people to it,” but not what will make for a sustainable future entity. He added that “at some point this transition has to happen to actual products that people want to use.”
AFL’s first 3,800 strong NFT collection in August sold out in less than 12 hours, raising an estimated $130,000 or more USD Coin (USDC). The AFL has already announced plans to expand its crypto offerings to include game day events, tickets and the chance to meet players in the Metaverse.