While many questions remain over the sustainability of Bitcoin and other digital payment systems, one thing is clear: the category is increasing its investment in sponsorship, with more deals to come. 

BitPay, Inc. is blazing the sponsorship trail with title of the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl and cosponsorship of Georgia Institute of Technology athletics.

And it appears the company may have funds for additional deals. BitPay this year raised more than $30 million from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson and other high-profile investors. The company provides Bitcoin processing services to more than 30,000 businesses.

BitPay aligned with the bowl game with two primary objectives: consumer education and merchant adoption. The company is sponsoring the Dec. 26 game on behalf of Bitcoin, not its corporate brand.

“We’re using the sponsorship to push Bitcoin and the entire Bitcoin ecosystem forward,” said Stephanie Wargo, BitPay’s vice president of marketing.

The company plans to accomplish that task by passing through sponsorship assets to digital wallet companies, currency exchanges and other players in the Bitcoin universe. Potential assets include radio spots and ticket packages.

“Some of our assets are not very useful to a B2B company. We’re able to parcel some of that inventory off.”

Like BitPay, participating companies will use the inventory to educate consumers about Bitcoin. For example, a digital wallet company could use on-site inventory  to demonstrate how its products are used to store currency and make purchases.

“We can educate 50,000 people at the game and the millions of people who watch the game on TV.”

BitPay worked with ESPN—the bowl game’s multimedia rightsholder—to ensure that consumers can use Bitcoin to purchase tickets, meals and other items at Tropicana Field.

BitPay focuses on college athletics to reach tech-savvy men, said Wargo, noting that roughly 80 percent of Bitcoin users are male.

“The demographic fits nicely with sports, which is where sponsorship comes into play.”

BitPay’s decision to sponsor college athletics follows a November 2013 broadcast of ESPN’s College GameDay in which a student was shown holding a sign with the Bitcoin logo and a QR code asking for donations. The student reportedly raised more than $23,000 from the stunt. 

“Everyone in the office talked about it, and (BitPay cofounder) Tony Gallippi made a comment that we should sponsor a bowl game.”

Partners With Georgia Tech To Recruit Employees
BitPay is using its partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology as an employee recruitment platform. The school is located in Atlanta—the location of BitPay’s corporate office—and is the alma mater of Gallippi and BitPay cofounder Stephen Pair.

The sponsorship includes Georgia Tech’s football and basketball programs.

To no surprise, BitPay paid for the Georgia Tech and Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl sponsorships with Bitcoins.

“It’s a requirement to get my attention,” said Wargo.