Cryptocurrency startups have been enlisting the marketing help of celebrities for a while now. But within the last year those startups have started to focus on one particular breed of celebrity – footballers.
Now cryptocurrency and football seem to be bumping into each all over the place as crypto transactions are used for player transfers, and players are used for cryptocurrency launches.
Football’s dalliance with cryptocurrency hasn’t proved fruitful quite yet, but the practice of pairing the two together only seems to be growing.
“Will Play for Crypto”
In January, Turkish football club Harunustaspor became the first club to sign a player using Bitcoin. While the transfer fee itself wasn’t paid with crypto (football club chairmen are far too cautious for that just yet), a portion of the player’s signing-on fee was delivered in BTC.
The club play in Sakarya First Division Group B – an amateur tier of the Turkish leagues – and the dollar amount of the BTC paid to the player reflects their lower tier status.
A sum of 0.0524 BTC was equal to around $385 at the time of the transfer, along with a further $470 worth of Turkish Lira. In what represents a first for the football world, the player, Omar Faruk Kiroglu, posed beside the chairman during the signing with his mobile wallet app displayed to the cameras.
Omer Faruk Kıroglu (left) with club chairman Haldun Sehit displays his payment in Bitcoin. Image from BBC
The chairman of Harunustaspor, Haldun Sehit, saw the event as a way to announce his club on the world stage, he said the transfer would:
“[Help] to make a name for ourselves in the country and the world.”
Turkish football fans are some of the most ‘passionate’ in the world, so if Kiroglu doesn’t hit the ground running at Harunustaspor the fans might start to wonder why the chairman was busy making a name for himself in the crypto world instead of the football world.
The Wheeler-Dealer’s Up to Old Tricks
Harry Redknapp has earned as much of a reputation for being a cockney wheeler-dealer as he has for being a football manager, and he’s recently turned his hand to ICO’s.
Redknapp was arrested in 2007 when working as manager of Portsmouth F.C, concerning suspicion of conspiring with the chairman Milan Mandaric to funnel chunks of player transfer fees into their own pockets.
Court reports suggested that Redknapp had set up offshore bank accounts to hold his ill-gained funds; but the 71 year-old claims to be ignorant of such things, and maintains that his lack of business acumen is what keeps landing him in trouble.
What that says about Electroneum – the crypto startup Redknapp recently got involved in – remains to be seen.
However, just as he had the midas touch in the football dugout, Redknapp seems to be having the same effect in the crypto sphere.
On October 12th, Redknapp tweeted out his support for Electroneum, stating simply:
Harry Redknapp’s Now Deleted tweet, Image from Twitter
Within the next week, Electroneum’s contributor base more than doubled – going from 60,000 to 130,000.
The founder of Electroneum made sure to thank Harry in a follow up tweet later that week, but insisted that Redknapp was not paid a dime for his efforts, and was merely a supporter of the project.
If this is true, it will mark a major change of direction for a man who only a few years ago claimed he couldn’t work text messages, and swore he’d never sent an email in his life.
Frankly, in the unlikely event that Mr. Redknapp didn’t get paid for his Electroneum tweet – which resulted in a 100% boost to the firm’s user base – it would probably turn out to be the worst piece of business he’s ever done.
The Players Follow Suit
ICO endorsements are becoming commonplace among professional footballers; and it’s not hard to see why. Football’s popularity around the globe makes them a prime target of upstart crypto firms looking to boost their profile.
Eden Hazard, star player of Chelsea F.C and Belgium, has 5.35 million followers on Twitter, and was recently snapped up by AllSports – a blockchain platform which aims to become a football media and betting hub.
Even the former World Player of the Year, Luis Figo, recently got in on the ICO promotion game. Figo hasn’t kicked a ball for ten years following his retirement from Inter Milan at the end of the 2008 season. But that hasn’t dampened his marketing appeal in the minds of Stryking Entertainment.
The firm’s fantasy sports platform, Football-Stars, allows users to tokenize their favourite players and then accumulate earnings based on how well they perform each week.
Figo announced his partnership with Football-Stars with enthusiasm, stating:
“When I heard about Football-Stars for the first time I immediately liked the idea. Football becomes more and more data driven with detailed statistics about all aspects of the game – this is what Stryking’s platform utilizes to create a compelling fan experience. I am happy to support the experienced team at Stryking and spread the word about their platform that allows fans to engage with the teams and players they are backing.”
That was back in April, but just a couple of days ago Figo made what might have been a faux pas when he revealed that he didn’t actually own any of the STRYKZ tokens which he had promoted so vigorously.
Tokenizing the Players
If you haven’t heard of James Rodriguez then you won’t be aware that he currently has over 17 million Twitter followers, and is one of the most famous people in his home country of Colombia.
Now he plans to use his fanbase to launch himself into the crypto world with the announcement of his new cryptocurrency – the JR10 token.
Details on actual use cases for the JR10 token remain scant, but given the full-time job that is being a professional football player it is highly unlikely that Rodriguez will be operating as lead developer.
It’s more likely that the firm behind the JR10 token – SelfSell – are seizing upon an opportunity to have their new platform seen by 17 million people, even before launch.
Perhaps the most famous footballer in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo has also been involved in brand tokenization, but not necessarily with his own knowledge.
CR7Coin was a cryptocurrency which cashed in on Ronaldo’s famous CR7 brand, and gained popularity as a digital avenue of access to the Ronaldo brand.
But a few months later the following disclaimer started to appear under CR7Coin marketing materials:
“CR7Coin is not owned, operated, endorsed by, or otherwise affiliated with Cristiano Ronaldo, CR7 trademark or any other organization owned and/or operated by Cristiano Ronaldo or any of his affiliates.”
Shortly afterwards, CR7Coin announced that they had rebranded to SporChain. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much of an use case to be found in SporChain/CR7Coin, and it was most likely intended to be a quick marketing grab by opportunistic hustlers.
Such is the case for the majority of upstart ICO’s which plaster a footballer’s face on their landing page and then sit back and wait for the easy stream of pageviews.
But when those pages don’t reveal an actual product, MVP or use case, all of those clicks often prove to be fruitless.