If you turn to your couchmate during the ReliaQuest Bowl there and ask, “Wait, what is Reliaquest?”, that’s exactly the point.
At cybersecurity The company has been around for 15 years, but CEO and founder Brian Murphy said it had seen a light elevator before Mississippi State took over Illinois. And now far from being the only cyber players using sports to expand their brand. Fortinet took over sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in 2021 while Rapid7 became the Boston Bruins’ first jersey patch partner in September. Acronis and Bitdefender are among the other companies that have thrown in sports sponsorships.
Since 1978, The Washington Post The style section has published an updated list of what and what comes out every New Year. For 2023, ‘crypto’ unsurprisingly landed in the ‘exit’ column with the price of Bitcoin down 65% in 2022 and the industry still reeling from the fall of FTX. If the long crypto season continues to drive down marketing spending—amidst economic expectations of a slowdown in advertising growth next year—B2B companies like security firms could step in to fill some of the gaps.
“Security is not discretionary spending,” Murphy said. “We didn’t change anything dramatically.”
Tech behemoths like Google and Microsoft have been on a cybersecurity buying spree for the past few years, with Google’s $5.4 billion acquisition of Mandiant the second largest purchase.
Reliaquest also expanded, spending $160 million to expand its offerings by acquiring Digital Shadows. Headquartered in Tampa, Reliaquest partners with the NBA and has deals with several teams in the sport. His work with Tampa’s 2021 Super Bowl host committee led to Murphy getting the call after Outback Steakhouse ended its naming rights deal with what was originally the Hall of Fame Bowl.
“All told, it took us probably about 18 minutes to make a decision,” Murphy said. The company took the remaining four years of the contract.
While Reliaquest works with major airlines, banks and healthcare companies, it also sees the unique challenges that sports teams face. For pro clubs, cybersecurity risks extend from point-of-sale devices and customer data obtained in stadiums, to protecting players’ personal information, to monitoring social media conversations around the brand.
NASCAR has even work directly with the FBI to minimize the risk of cyber breaches. In March, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment director of cyber security and risk management Ekaterina Carayanis warned only 1% of teams and leagues have enough practice.
Ransomware attacks continue to be a threat as well, with Manchester United who is the victim in recent years.
“I think people have become a little numb to it, because they’re used to it happening,” Murphy said. “But if there is an opportunity, there will be an attack, and there are many opportunities in sports.”
Ultimately, sports sponsorships offer a unique opportunity to buy name recognition (something crypto startups have taken advantage of as well) while reaching out to potential customers and even potential employees.
“I think the kids will listen, they’ll pay more attention,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to dress up like Cyber Guy and walk around, am I?”