How is fintech tackling football?
Tottenham Hotspur are completely cashless (and trophyless) at their new stadium. Lionel Messi has launched the ‘Messiverse’ in partnership with blockchain platform Ethernity. Manchester City and Laybuy have teamed up to offer a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) service to fans. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Football and fintech might seem like strange bedfellows but the crossover makes a lot of sense. In the past few years, the two worlds have started to overlap and we’re only just getting started. Let’s dig into what things look like at present and what the future has in store. And make sure you check out this episode of our Fintech Insider Insights podcast for more on fintech and the beautiful game.
Why sponsor a football team?
Well this one’s pretty obvious. Football is the biggest and most-watched sport in the world by some distance. The 2018 Men’s World Cup was watched by over 3.5bn people. An average of 1.5 million viewers tuned into a Premier League game during the 2018/2019 season.
Not to mention what makes football so brilliant in the first place. That you can grow up in a favela and go on to become Rivaldo. Or live in poverty and turn out like Raheem Sterling. It’s a game filled with opportunity and limitless potential. So it’s not hard to see why fintech sponsors find it appealing. The idea of reaching underserved communities has really resonated with players in the space. Just ask Rio Ferdinand, who invested in UK-based payments startup Sokin earlier this year.
it’s not hard to see why fintech sponsors find it appealing. The idea of reaching underserved communities has really resonated with players in the space.
Prospective sponsors are eagerly following the development of women’s football. In recent years, its popularity has enjoyed a massive boost. The World Cup final in 2019 was watched by over 82 million globally, outstripping the Oscars and the famous ‘El Clasico’ men’s fixture. But for a long time it was a bit of a disruptor when compared to the staggering pull of the men’s game. Not unlike the challenger bank space. The parallel certainly isn’t lost on Starling - the UK fintech is officially sponsoring the Women’s Euro's in 2022.
Shall we sing a song for you?
What’s in it for supporters? Their teams get money. And a lot of it. But sponsorship isn’t just about riding the gravy train anymore. Fans expect businesses to invest in grassroots football, inclusivity and the communities that clubs are based in. Look at the global outcry prompted by the bungled Super League smash-and-grab.
And fans can smell when something is off. The proposed partnership between West Ham United and Socios.com collapsed after fans accused the blockchain platform of ‘monetising supporter engagement’. Companies have to be careful their values and messaging align with what clubs stand for before they reach for the chequebook.
Companies have to be careful their values and messaging align with what clubs stand for before they reach for the chequebook.
We won the league at the...Crypto.com Stadium?
It’s early days but crypto traders are definitely on the football radar. Binance recently announced a ‘Fan Token’ partnership with FC Porto promising to ‘take the club’s brand to the next level’. And Crypto.com has teamed up with Serie A to become the first ‘Innovation and Technology Partner of Italian Football’.
There’s no doubting the potential in this space. Off the back of COVID-19 losses, clubs are parched and desperate for new revenue streams. Crypto is a potential ocean. The NBA’s partnership with CryptoKitties creator Dapper Labs has seen a LeBron James NFT go for $200,000. And a Zion Williamson for a little less.
Earlier this year, Sorare launched a blockchain-hosted fantasy football game alongside Ubisoft. Players of ‘The One Shot League’ select a team of five players through digital cards. Their performance is based on how the real-life versions perform on match day. It’s a fantastic way of encouraging fans to follow their league as closely as possible - successful teams comprise the most in-form players. A safe bet would be Mohamed Salah up top. Trust me, I’m fifth in my fantasy league. Out of 7.
And that’s a wrap
That’s a snapshot of football and fintech. As these two worlds cross over more and more, expect plenty of interesting stuff to make headlines. They both have the power to change the world. So what dizzying feats can they achieve together? It’s a combination to make even Bergkamp and Henry jealous.