Crypto exchanges are pouring money in the AFL

The AFL Is a Hotbed for Crypto Sponsorship — Is It the Key to Mainstream Adoption?

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The AFL became a hotbed for crypto sponsorship throughout 2021. Australia’s crypto exchanges say sport is the natural next step in bringing the asset class into the mainstream, following in the footsteps of what banks have been doing for decades. 

Swyftx, Australia’s second largest crypto exchange by trading volume, became the third industry player to broker a sponsorship within the AFL when it announced a new two-year coaching sponsorship deal with the Brisbane Lions.

After the partnership was announced, the Brisbane Lions said the deal has prompted the club to consider crypto exposure of its own through the exchange. Even so, Swyftx CEO Ryan Parsons said there’s nothing unique about the deal.

“I guess it’s not a unique position, when the traditional financial sector has been a big investor [in sport] in sheep’s clothing for a long time now, and lots of business sporting sponsorships are an effective medium for gaining brand awareness and visibility,” Parsons said.

“With the AFL in particular, I guess it’s a truly national sport, and with that comes great reach.”

Shortly after, one of Australia’s longest-running crypto exchanges, Independent Reserve, announced a one-year sponsorship deal with the Sydney Swans.

Independent Reserve CEO Adrian Przelozny said that that the deal naturally ties up a shared demographic. He said the exchange also felt that the league, more broadly, had a cleaner reputation and greater reach than other Australian sports. 

“It was pretty obvious that the user demographics of our customer base had pretty good overlap with the user demographics of their base as well,” Przelozny said.

“I think it’s also got a very good image. There may be some other sports, you know, there’s not as much controversy in the AFL as maybe in a few of the other leagues. So it was really the obvious choice, we wouldn’t have really looked anywhere else.” 

Others have been more aggressive in embracing a broader mix of Australian sports. At Swyftx, the Brisbane Lions sponsorship is one of a string of sports partnerships.

The exchange announced a sponsorship deal with the Bathurst 1000, after tying up a major partnership with the TCR Australia Touring Car Series. They’ve eyed Australian cricket, too, starting with a deal with the Big Bash League’s Adelaide Strikers. 

The world of sports became a clear target for exchanges around the world throughout 2021, both in Australia and in the US. Locally, though, exchanges seem intent on piling into the “national game”. 

The first deal to surface was one between the AFL’s Melbourne Demons and Australian crypto exchange CoinJar, before another was announced between the Western Bulldogs and local rivals, CoinSpot. 

Over in the US, the trend has seen exchanges pour hundreds of millions into a range of major leagues in a bid to boost awareness. 

Since June 2021, the US exchange FTX has announced deals worth more than $500 million in everything from basketball and baseball, to esports. 

The NBA’s Miami Heat now host their opponents at FTX Arena, while the LA Lakers, Clippers and Kings welcome travelling teams to their new home, Crypto.com Arena. 

The latter was the second of two major partnerships for Crypto.com, after the exchange locked in deals to become an official sponsor of Italy’s Series A soccer league and later claim the naming rights to what was formerly known as the Staples Center. 

According to Parsons, the speed with which these partnerships are taking hold of sports around the world should emerge as a clear indicator of crypto’s mainstream potential.

“We’re seeing the mainstreaming of the industry happening right in front of us, and in real time there’s been massive adoption of crypto [in Australia], and we’ve had massive growth [as a result].”