From Serving the Unbanked to Sponsoring Football: Cryptocurrency is Pushing its Way to Become Mainstream

Cryptocurrencies are on the rise in numerous industries including sports. Many sports clubs are introducing salary payments, partnerships and sponsorships in crypto. AZ Alkmaar is the latest European sports club to crack a partnership deal where part of the sponsorship amount is disbursed in bitcoin.

Widespread adoption

The adoption of cryptocurrencies is evident in almost every sector. From food to transportation and tourism, cryptocurrencies are continuously accepted as a form of payment. In fact, some countries are considering adopting cryptocurrencies as their national currency. El Salvador is the first country in the world to take such a step and Bitcoin will be the country’s second legal tender.

J.P Morgan’s Morgan Stanley, one of the U.S. top investment banks, offers its wealthy clients access to crypto funds to promote digital assets. Starbucks is just one of the many restaurant chains now accepting cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, in exchange for their various services, while PayPal is also considering bitcoin payments. These are some of the latest crypto adoption news coming from around the world.

Developing countries are actually more “developed” in crypto

The massive adoption of cryptocurrencies can also be seen in developing countries. In Africa, for example, although cryptocurrencies are not legal in most countries, they are a significant force in the financial sector. The West African country of Nigeria saw increased cryptocurrency activity despite a ban by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in early 2021. 

In 2020, there were at least 1.1 million cryptocurrency transactions on the Paxful crypto exchange every month in Nigeria, making it the world’s leading cryptocurrency country. The African continent continues to make headway with crypto adoption. A continental adoption of Akoin, Akon’s newly created cryptocurrency, is possible. In Kenya, the coin and its underlying technology are already taking shape: Mwale Medical and Technological Center, Kakamega.

Developing countries need cryptocurrencies to protect themselves from the shocks of inflation. In 2020, the CBN devalued the local currency, the Naira, by 24% and further devaluations are expected. In addition, there are a large number of unbanked people in developing countries due to the centralization and bureaucracy associated with opening and operating bank accounts. 

The Philippines, for example, has one of the highest numbers of unbanked people, currently at 90%. The top 5 countries with the highest number of unbanked people in 2021 are Egypt, Morocco, the Philippines, Vietnam and Mexico. Remittances are an essential component of developing country economies. A study of the top five remittance-receiving countries in 2020 names India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Egypt, in that order. Together, these countries receive $251 billion worth of remittances annually, almost the size of the GDP of South Africa.

Sports meets crypto

The applicability of crypto now goes beyond buying a coffee at Starbucks or eating at a McDonald’s outlet down the street. It is disrupting the HR industry not only for payments, but also for partnerships and sponsorships.

In the US, there are several major teams that are currently using crypto in their various entities, including the hockey team San Jose Sharks, the MLB Oakland Athletics, the NBA Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, NFL and others. BitPay was the first American-based bitcoin service provider to crack a sponsorship deal with ESPN Events, also one of the largest American multinational sports event companies based in North Carolina. That same year, Bitpay also became a top sponsor of the St. Petersburg Bowl.

In Europe, Arsenal FC is in partnership with Sportsbet, a forward-thinking fintech and crypto company, while FC Barcelona launched its own cryptocurrency, the Barcelona Fan Token (BAR), last year.

The AZ Alkmaar follows suit

AZ Alkmaar, which is one of the top five football teams in the Netherlands, has just signed a deal with Bitcoin Meester, one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges in the Netherlands. AZ ‘s Commercial Director Michael Koster hailed the collaboration, recognizing the growing global interest in cryptocurrencies. The football club will receive a portion of its sponsorship in Bitcoin and maintain its balance sheet in Bitcoin. The club will also be the first in the Netherlands to explore and benefit from such a partnership.

Cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity at an unprecedented rate, with a total of more than 300 million users worldwide as of 2021. In addition, about 18,000 businesses worldwide now accept cryptocurrencies. A study of the sports world by CoinIdol, a world blockchain news outlet, found that football clubs in particular appreciate the potential of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Whether buying tickets or receiving donations and grants, sports clubs are well positioned to hit the jackpot at the height of cryptocurrency growth.

One major competitive advantage that sports clubs have over other business entities is the large potential market. Although the total number of AZ fans is unclear, the club’s host community, Alkmaar, is quite populous with at least 100,000. For Arsenal FC, with a fan base of more than 30 million worldwide, the future could be more successful for their own cryptocurrencies, joining the mainstream market or leveraging existing cryptocurrencies. According to data from Coin Market Cap, Barcelona FC’s BAR has seen significant success since its launch two years ago. At the time, it was trading for just €2. Today, the price is around €18.

In general, no one is surprised these days to learn that cryptocurrencies are becoming mainstream. As various industries embrace this innovation, it is attracting more and more attention, which in turn is driving adoption. In the future, there could be even more industries that benefit from Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

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