To win over a public still skeptical of digital currencies and to get some good headlines in a year marked by bad press for its falling price and bankruptcy scandals, bitcoin promoters are turning to America's favorite pastime - football.
Later this year, for the first time ever, two college football teams will take the gridiron in St. Petersburg, Florida, to face off in what is now dubbed the “Bitcoin Bowl.” The arrangement between BitPay and ESPN Events, announced Wednesday, stands as one of the boldest marketing strategies bitcoin has taken up as it tries to gain an entry point into the mainstream finance world.
The NCAA-sanctioned game will take place at Tropicana field, the fulltime home of the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team, on Dec. 26. The game was formerly sponsored by the O’Brady’s chain of restaurants and the USB manufacturer magicJack.
The announcement by BitPay Executive Chairman Tony Gallippi, reported by the Wall Street Journal, made it clear that the bitcoin processing service, which helps an estimated 30,000 businesses accept bitcoin as payment, may have more to gain than either of the two former sponsors.
“Our goal is to move bitcoin into the mainstream, and sponsoring the St. Petersburg Bowl offers us that opportunity,” he said in a statement. “College football fans and the bitcoin community represent a similar target demographic – tech-savvy men between the ages of 18 and 40.”
Along with tapping into ESPN’s reach of approximately 100 million households, BitPay also convinced the game’s organizers to make tickets to the game available for purchase in bitcoin. BitPay spokesperson Jan Jahosky even said, in an email to the Daily Dot, that the winning team’s university can elect to be paid the $500,000 prize in the digital cryptocurrency.
The four-year deal is the first contract between bitcoin and a major TV network, coming after a string of announcements that Dish Network, Expedia Inc., Overstock.com, Virgin Galactic and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings would start accepting the new, still unpredictable currency.