Banks zig in sports marketing as fintechs and crypto firms zag

Sports fans entering stadiums and arenas are being introduced to an increasingly crowded field of fintech and cryptocurrency logos, prompting current banks to rethink their sponsorship strategies.

The sports marketing market offers a way for corporations to place their brands in front of a wide and engaged audience. Financial services companies spent more than $ 770 million last year on top 151 top 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 US sports and athletes in 2021.

M&T Bank, which owns the naming rights for the Baltimore Ravens Stadium, has also worked with the NFL team to create community initiatives, including a program to support local schools.

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But as the fintech and cryptocurrency markets grow, companies offering these products are using sports marketing to build brand recognition.

Banks, on the other hand, look for ways to differentiate themselves, often producing content that tells a story about their connections to local communities, said SponsorUnited President Bob Lynch.

“How much more brand exposure do you need in a stadium sign?” Lynch asked during a recent interview. “It may not be as valuable as the other ways you can get people involved.”

Kevin Rochlitz, head of sales for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, said he saw increased interest from team sponsors in creating “storytelling content” that stood out as a business affecting the fan community.

“It comes as a great way to connect with the consumer,” Rochlitz said, adding that M&T Bank, the Ravens ’main sponsor, has produced video features about working with the team on community initiatives in the Baltimore area.

For New York-based M&T of Buffalo, sponsoring the Ravens “is not about recognizing their name, it’s about connecting,” said Francesco Lagutaine, the bank’s head of marketing, communications and digital.

The $ 155.1 billion asset bank has been sponsoring the Ravens since 2003. In addition to owning the naming rights at the Ravens’ local 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 TV commercials, online videos and stadium videos highlighting those initiatives.

“Commitment is created through storytelling,” Lagutaine said. “The reason storytelling is important is because it creates compassion and unity in the communities where we serve.”

Cryptographic companies and fintechs, many of which are not yet well-known names, generally seem to be more focused on building brand recognition.

Last year, cryptography was the fastest-growing category of sports sponsorship deals, rising from just five the year before to 116, according to SponsorUnited. Meanwhile, fintech companies ranked third among the most sought-after brands, with more interest in brands such as Block’s Cash App and Robinhood than American Express and PNC Bank.

Today, Chime and LendingTree fintechs have sponsor patches on NBA team jerseys. The Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers play in arenas named after cryptographic companies. And in February, MLB’s Washington Nationals agreed on a partnership with crypto firm Terra to develop new ways for fans to spend money on the stadium.

Fintechs and cryptographic companies contribute to the global growth of sports marketing by financial services brands. The number of such brands buying sports sponsorship and media offerings has increased by 20% since 2018, and the number of offers has increased by 46%, according to the SponsorUnited report.

SoFi, a digital banking company, owns the 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 offered a way to “increase our footprint” and provide “the opportunity to experience the SoFi brand in person,” said Lauren Stafford Webb, the company’s director of marketing.

“We’ve been able to build momentum with our sports marketing initiatives from sponsorships and lighter advertising efforts to enduring platforms that support large-scale audience building,” Webb said in an email.

Sports sponsorships provide an opportunity for fintechs and crypto companies to demonstrate that digital commerce “is not a flash in the pan,” Lynch said. “Sports have the unique ability to provide a great platform to participate.”

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