By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
December 17, 2014: In June, BitPay, an Atlanta-based firm co-founded in May 2011 by Tony Gallippi and Stephen Pair that processes payments for the virtual currency known as bitcoins, worked with ESPN Events to acquire naming rights to what had been the Beef O'Brady's Bowl and what for the next three seasons will be the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, played in Tropicana Field.
With the Dec. 26 game between University of Central Florida from the American Athletic Conference and North Carolina State from the Atlantic Coast Conference fast-approaching, BitPay said that more than 100 businesses in the St. Petersburg and Tampa area would accept bitcoin payments by game day (ESPN, 8 PM ET). By game week, the businesses will all be listed on Coinmap and AirBitz, global directories listing businesses that accept bitcoin.
According to Gallippi, Executive Chairman of BitPay, "We are sponsoring this Bowl game to show the world a hands-on experience with bitcoin. St. Petersburg is going to be an example of what bitcoin can enable anywhere in the world — a cheaper, faster and more secure way of doing business.”
BitPay also has a deal with the NBA's Sacramento Kings and processes the account for rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson that accepts bitcoins as payment for his most recent release, Animal Ambition.
"Our demographic tends to be young, male, tech-savvy and well-educated, the same as the early users of the Internet and e-mail," said Stephanie Wargo, BitPay Vce-President of Marketing. "So there is a tremendous synergy between us and college students."
As it turns out, it was a college student who helped inspire the company to make the investment. According to Wargo, during a telecast of ESPN's College GameDay Built By The Home Depot last December, a student was seen in the background holding up a sign that read, "Mom please send . . .", followed not by the traditional amount of dollars he needed but instead by the bitcoin logo and a QR code to his personal bitcoin account. Over the next weeks, the kid received more than $23,000 in bitcoin currency to his account.
That led to serious in-house naming rights conversations initiated by Gallippi, which ultimately became a deal with ESPN and the St. Petersburg Bowl Committee.
According to Bitcoin Pulse, there are more than 100 thousand bitcoin transactions made daily, with Expedia, Google, Dish Network and Overstock.com among the companies that accept bitcoins as payment. Time Inc. this month became the first major magazine publisher to accept bitcoin payments for subscriptions (including Fortune and Travel + Leisure).
Also in December, BitPay integrated with Xsolla, a billing platform that helps game developers monetize and improve conversion.
Earlier this year, BitPay signed a multi-year pact, brokered by IMG College, to become the sponsor for the football and basketball programs at Georgia Tech. In a sign of the times, IMG College said that the deal was paid for using bitcoins.
Q&A: How BitPay Is Taking Bitcoin To The Sports, Entertainment Marketing Bank
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Back to Sports Marketers of the Year 2014
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