Sports fans entering stadiums and arenas are being introduced to an increasingly crowded realm of fintech and crypto logos, prompting incumbent banks to rethink their sponsorship strategies.
The sports marketing market offers businesses a way to get their brands in front of a large and engaged audience. Financial services firms spent more than $770 million last year among the top 151 professional sports teams, according to a new report from data provider SponsorUnited. The market has traditionally been dominated by banks, which accounted for 58% of sponsorship deals with North American sports and athletes in 2021.
But as the fintech and cryptocurrency markets grow, companies offering these products are using sports marketing to build brand recognition.
Banks, in turn, are looking for ways to differentiate themselves, often by producing content that tells a story about their ties to local communities, said SponsorUnited President Bob Lynch.
“How much brand exposure do you need from a stadium sign?” Lynch asked during a recent interview. “That might not be as valuable as the other ways you can engage people.”
Kevin Rochlitz, director of sales for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, said he’s seen greater interest from team sponsors in creating “narrative content” that highlights the impact of a business on the fan community.
“They see it as a great way to connect with the consumer,” Rochlitz said, adding that M&T Bank, the Ravens’ main sponsor, produced video stories about working with the team on community initiatives in the area. Baltimore.
For Buffalo, New York-based M&T, sponsoring the Ravens “isn’t about name recognition, it’s about connection,” said Francesco Lagutaine, director of marketing, communications and digital at the bank.
The $155.1 billion asset bank has sponsored the Ravens since 2003. In addition to holding the naming rights to the Ravens stadium, M&T has worked closely with the Ravens to create “community initiatives” near Baltimore , including a program that supports local schools, Lagutaine said.
The M&T Bank logo appears alongside the Ravens logo in television commercials, online videos and in-stadium videos highlighting these initiatives.
“Engagement is created through storytelling,” Lagutaine said. “The reason storytelling is important is that it creates compassion and unity in the communities where we serve.”
Crypto companies and fintechs, many of which are still unknown, generally seem more focused on brand recognition.
Last year, crypto was the fastest growing category of sports sponsorship deals, growing from just five the previous year to 116, according to SponsorUnited. Meanwhile, fintech companies ranked third among most searched brands, with more interest in brands like Block’s Cash App and Robinhood than American Express and PNC Bank.
Today, fintechs Chime and LendingTree have sponsor patches on NBA team jerseys. The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers play in arenas named after crypto companies. And in February, MLB’s Washington Nationals agreed to partner with crypto firm Terra to develop new ways for fans to spend money at the stadium.
Fintechs and crypto companies are contributing to the overall growth of sports marketing by financial services brands. The number of these brands buying sports and media sponsorship deals has increased by 20% since 2018, and the number of deals has increased by 46%, according to the SponsorUnited report.
SoFi, a digital banking company, owns the naming rights to the 70,000-seat football stadium in Inglewood, California, where the Super Bowl was played in February. The 20-year naming rights agreement provided a means to “increase our footprint” and provide “the opportunity to experience the SoFi brand in person,” said Lauren Stafford Webb, the company’s chief marketing officer.
“We’ve been able to build momentum with our sports marketing initiatives, ranging from sponsorships and lighter advertising efforts to sustainable platforms that support building relationships with large-scale audiences,” Webb said in an email. mail.
Sports sponsorships provide an opportunity for fintechs and crypto companies to show that digital commerce is “not a flash in the pan,” Lynch said. “Sport has a unique ability to provide a broad platform to engage.”