Canadian speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen recently became the first athlete to be paid in virtual money when he struck a one-year sponsorship deal with ONG Social, (a cryptocurrency community and a social network) and another one with CEEK VR (virtual reality developer).
As he was going to the Winter Olympics he managed to sign to sponsorship deals, one with the ONG Social. It's often not easy being a Winter Olympian, particularly in securing financial support to fund the pursuit of sport success, with Bloemen exploring a "whole new frontier," according to his agent.
The double world record-holder plans to share his Olympic journey on the ONG Social network and star in a 360° virtual reality experience on CEEK VR. In return, he will earn cryptocurrency rewards.
"Speed skating success is all about progression -- building and building to peak at the right time," said Bloemen in a joint statement with CEEK VR and ONG Social last month to announce the deal.
If it's a deal that provides exposure for ONG and CEEK VR, it could also be a smart move with Mary Spio, who is the CEO and founder of the virtual reality company, pointing out that athletes would increasingly use VR to improve their performance.
"Bloemen's support for cutting-edge technologies is reflective of his proclivity for pushing the boundaries," said Spio in a statement.
"We believe Virtual Reality isn't just great for our audience (Ceekers) but will ultimately be used for training and maximizing player performance and potential."
Unlike what people may expect, Bloemen isn’t too worried about the volatility of digital currency. He is not getting paid in Bitcoin or any of the other major currencies. Instead, it seems ONG Social has its own currency.
Bloemen said he was "excited" about his new endorsement, adding he felt like he got "two new teammates to help put me over the top, at the most important point in the season."
He added: "This is really a whole new frontier. It will be exciting to see how cryptocurrency can work for Ted-Jan, in particular, but also the impact it will have on the sport marketing industry as a whole."