The moment that beautiful word hit my ears, I nearly lost the handle on my morning.
I was on the phone last summer with a source chatting about the St. Petersburg Bowl’s sponsor search and he told me they were announcing that day. When I asked who the sponsor was, a million words could have come out of his mouth and none of them would have been as fascinating as “bitcoin.”
Atlanta bitcoin processor BitPay was more interested in raising awareness of Bitcoin conceptually than it was in raising its own company profile. That’s because there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about what bitcoin is, what it is good for and how it works. Those are a lot of marketing problems for a pre-New Years bowl game to solve, but you have to start somewhere.
So, why is a Bitcoin Bowl sponsorship more interesting for a business journalist than any of the other names that could have come through my phone that morning? And why am I heartbroken that it’s over after only one year?
1. We spend a lot of time talking about disruption, covering companies and industries that are being disrupted in a way readers can learn best practices. There is no singular idea more disruptive than digital currency and no industry more ripe for disruption than banking.
2. The front line for a company trying to market bitcoin to the whole world is St. Petersburg. If we told you there was going to be a Bitcoin Bowl, you might have guessed it would have been in Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas. Being the home base for showing this new technology to the world was an awesome opportunity for St. Pete. The company put considerable resources into helping retailers understand the technology and get ready for fans not just of football, but of digital currency.
4. The commercials that ran during the first (and, I guess now, the only) Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl were a study in marketing. Three distinct approaches, all aimed at helping casual day-after-Christmas college football fans understand cryptocurrency. This was the funny one. This was the businessy one.
5. I was excited to see how much ground they could gain in a three-year sponsorship deal. Getting people to understand digital currency is a heady gig. It will take more than one game. The news this week that the name is changing and the implication that ESPN and BitPay have parted ways makes it less likely that St. Pete will play a role in the growth of this disruptive industry now. And that’s a loss for Tampa Bay.