IQONIQ, the fan engagement platform that only officially launched last year, has gone into liquidation.
Over the past 18 months, the company signed a host of sponsorship deals across sports including with Spanish soccer’s LaLiga and the McLaren Formula 1 team.
The majority of IQONIQ’s agreements were with European soccer clubs, notably Monaco and Marseille from France’s Ligue 1, Spain’s Real Sociedad and Valencia, Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, and Crystal Palace from the English Premier League.
In total, the platform secured over 100 sports partners that also included leagues and teams across rugby, cricket, handball, and basketball, and it had claimed to be in talks with a further 200 properties early last year.
The liquidation will present a financial issue for those rightsholders who could lose out on millions, as well as fans who bought cryptocurrency tokens through the platform.
The Monaco-based company’s chief executive Kazim Atilla told the UK’s Times newspaper that “millions” of IQONIQ tokens or coins had been bought and admitted that they were now worth almost nothing.
The Times reports that Real Sociedad, which agreed a front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with IQONIQ, revealed they are owed €820,000 ($927,965) by the platform, while Crystal Palace has begun legal action over missed payments.
IQONIQ signed up as Palace’s sleeve sponsor for the 2020-21 season but the club suspended the partnership last February.
The fan engagement platform had partnerships with 10 soccer clubs across Europe and the US worth a combined $10.9 million annually and it is expected that all teams will follow Sociedad and Palace in taking legal action.
IQONIQ's active deals across all sports are worth $10.96 million this year.
Atilla told the Times that it had been severely affected by the pandemic but insisted that it was still operating and would now move from Monaco to another country.
In July 2020, IQONIQ secured €100 million in funding from Lux Media Investments, the Luxembourg-based private investment company, to support its plans to expand globally.
It had also added some heavyweight sports industry names to its advisory board in 2020 to oversee the expansion of its platform and provide regular guidance on business and technology strategy.
This included Marcus Luer, the founder and chief executive of TSA, the Malaysia-based international sports marketing agency, Sam Li, head of international business strategy at Sina Sports, the sports subsidiary of Chinese internet company Sina, and US sports agent J.B. Bernstein, chief executive of Access Group, the athlete management firm.
This development with IQONIQ is likely to increase calls for cryptocurrency sponsorship deals to be regulated by governing bodies and wider authorities.
Patrick Kinch, sport analyst at GlobalData, commented: “IQONIQ’s liquidation is likely to create greater scrutiny and regulation from governing bodies, across multiple sport sectors, into the way in which clubs engage with what is a relatively new industry, potentially slowing crypto’s investment into sport sponsorship.
“IQONIQ’s collapse leaves several European soccer clubs now potentially out of pocket, with previous partners suing IQONIQ over missed payments.
“The combined value of its active partnerships with European soccer clubs is $6 million annually. With cryptocurrency currently unregulated in the UK, the Football Supporter’s Association has said that league chiefs and the government need to regulate cryptocurrency platforms, with Socios.com, another crypto-based fan engagement platform writing to the Premier League calling for a code-of-practice for all crypto-related partnerships.
“Such a process would undoubtedly curve the current rate of new partnerships being signed between European clubs and crypto firms.
“The cryptocurrency market has been heavily engaged in European soccer over the past 18 to 24 months with nearly half of the clubs in the top five leagues holding at least one crypto partnership. However, growing unrest from fans, some of whom, in the case of IQONIQ, have been left out of pocket by a firm whose cryptocurrency is now, by the admission of its own chief executive, worthless, will force the hand of clubs to ensure that payment from partners is made on firmer financial ground.”