The AFL has become a hotbed for crypto sponsorship. Australian crypto exchanges say it’s the next step to mainstream success.

The AFL has become a hotbed for crypto sponsorship. Australian crypto exchanges say it’s the next step to mainstream success.
The Australian Federal Police says cryptocurrency scams have ‘exploded’ during the pandemic, with a 172% increase in losses this year. Photo: Getty Images
  • This week saw Independent Reserve broker a deal with the Sydney Swans, while Swyftx partnered with the Brisbane Lions.
  • Australian crypto exchanges are pouring cash into the AFL, and sport more broadly, to mainstream the asset class.
  • The trend mirrors similar activity seen across the US, where crypto has already become firmly entrenched in the NBA and major league baseball.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The AFL has become a hotbed for crypto sponsorship through 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 on Tuesday, 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 told Business Insider Australia 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.”

Just hours later, 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 told Business Insider Australia 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 emerges as only the latest in a string of recent sports partnerships.

Just last week, the exchange announced a sponsorship deal with the Bathurst 1000, after tying up a major partnership with the TCR Australia Touring Car Series last November. Now, they’re eyeing Australian cricket, too, starting with a deal with the Big Bash League’s Adelaide Strikers, which was finalised this week. 

The world of sports became a clear target for exchanges around the world through 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, 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 Serie 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] this year, and we’ve had massive growth [as a result].”