Based on this year’s World Cup results, Canadian speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen is virtually money in the bank.
Make that cryptocurrency.
The 31-year-old Bloemen, who is a podium threat in both the 5,000- and 10,000-metre races at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, has signed unique, one-year sponsorship deals with two cutting-edge American companies. CEEK VR is a producer of virtual reality experiences and ONG Social is a decentralized social network and crypto community.
Bloemen is being paid in part in cryptocurrencies issued by the companies. CEEK CEO Mary Spio and ONG Social CEO Christopher Kramer said they believe Bloemen is the first athlete to accept sponsorship payment in crypto, the value of which can fluctuate wildly.
“We did a minimum amount in cash, but most in cryptocurrencies,” Bloemen said Tuesday. “For me, the real risk of not getting anything is not there, because I got a little (cash) out of it already. And that combination makes this sponsorship really fun, right. Because we’re going to help each other. I’m trying to get them a little more exposure to make them succeed, and that would help all of us, right.”
ONG already has coins on a public market, while CEEK will issue its tokens publicly in mid-February. At that point, Bloemen would be able to cash out, though he’ll be at the Olympics and focused on delivering the kind of results that CEEK and ONG are banking on.
“He’s an exceptional athlete who is well positioned to go for the gold,” said Kramer. “We looked at who he was and at his accomplishments and decided this would be a good thing to do.”
Bloemen and his Ottawa-based agent Lawrence Baslaw both liked the unique aspect of the terms and the profile of each company.
“He was very receptive and that’s very indicative of how cutting edge he is,” said Spio. “He’s forward thinking and we wanted to be associated with someone who is forward thinking, who is always pushing the boundary.”
Bloemen admitted he had to bone up on cryptocurrency before signing the deal.
“I had no pre-existing knowledge about it, so I’m excited to learn and see where it’s going. From what I know, it’s something that can go up and down really fast, so it’s pretty exciting.”
The most well-known crypto, Bitcoin, goes up and down all right. In January, it has traded as high as US$17,579 and as low as US$9,400.
Bloemen said he doesn’t trade stocks, so this is a departure for him. So too for the American companies, who have partnered with a Canadian athlete in a lesser-known sport than any of the big four — football, baseball, basketball and hockey — in North America.
“These companies wanted to differentiate themselves,” said Baslaw. “They really like Ted, the fact that he has an international positioning. They like his story. Perhaps there is an opportunity for them to leverage their currencies above others through their relationship with Ted.”
Spio said they are working on a project with Bloemen that will allow viewers to “experience his training in VR and just get to know him in VR.”
Kramer said they will work with Bloemen on building his social media presence. And Baslaw said Bloemen will wear the ONG Social logo on his racing suit and podium jacket at two events after the Olympics.