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How Analysts Expect Crypto Sports Sponsorship Spend To Reach $5B In Less Than Five Years

Nielsen has been in existence for nearly a century, and is widely considered one of the most respectable names in data and market measurement, particularly around TV and media viewership and related areas. In Nielsen’s latest report, ‘Fans Are Changing The Game,’ the publicly-traded firm is forecasting the sports sponsorship pocketbook for blockchain and crypto firms to tally up to north of $5B by 2026.

Let’s take a look at this takeaway, and other main observations from Nielsen around crypto and blockchain firms.

Nielsen’s Sports Report: An Overview

The report splits into four pieces: consumer and behavioral shifts, their impacts on sponsorship models, their impacts on sports media and content distribution, and major takeaways for brands and sports rights holders.

Over-the-top (OTT) distribution (think Netflix, DAZN, Amazon Prime, etc.) and it’s societal adoption is the first callout from the report around consumer shifts. Relative to the general population, Gen Z consumers are more likely to be multi-tasking while watching sports, and fans are increasingly turning to social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Twitch for sports content. The report also found sports sponsorships to lie quite high on the scale of trusted advertising, with more trust instilled in these sponsorships than simple TV advertisements, online video ads, and social media ads. Furthermore, OTT distribution has helped sports grow to be “must watch” TV – despite many linear television outlets holding on to dear life to their sports output.

How are these societal shifts changing the way sports sponsorships come to life? Nielsen sees a clear correlation between visible sponsorship messaging and purchasing behavior, and now crypto firms are rapidly entering the space:

From the past two years of immense growth in the “crypto/blockchain/NFT” category, Nielsen projects strong performance in sponsorship spend to continue. The firm’s 2026 forecasts include single digit percentage growth for traditional sports sponsorship categories like automotive, retail, and energy sectors. Nielsen projects double digit percentage growth for the “IT software/hardware” category, and a massive 778% growth of the aforementioned blockchain category.

Somewhat surprising (but at the same time, not surprising) is Nielsen’s findings that esports fans are leading over sports fans and the general population of both awareness and interest in crypto tokens. This is surprising in part because of many vocal opponents of NFTs and crypto in the gaming and esports space. Nonetheless, it is easily the most technologically-forward thinking audience, so it shouldn’t surprise us too much to see this audience leading in both awareness and interest. Last year was a record-breaking year for esports sponsorship deals, and we saw FTX, Coinbase, and many other crypto-first firms get involved.

Another growth lever for blockchain technology in sport is what Neilsen describes as the “unbundling of women’s sports” – the idea of sponsorship packages in women’s sports being dedicated and no longer bundled with men’s sport. This will lead to more targeted opportunities in marketing and sponsorship – a prime example is the likes of Crypto.com and Voyager, solidifying deals with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in recent months. As Nielsen aptly notes, the women’s Super League viewership almost 6x’d from average match UK viewers from two years ago to last year… growth in women’s sport is real, and crypto firms will be present to engage with fans as these leagues grow.

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