ST. PETERSBURG — The annual college football game played at Tropicana Field has a new name: Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl.
ESPN Events said Wednesday that BitPay, a bitcoin payment processor, will serve as title sponsor for the postseason game for the next three years, starting with this year's game on Dec. 26.
BitPay officials said fans will be able to buy tickets as well as hot dogs, beer and T-shirts at the stadium using the virtual currency, a first for a college football event. Digital wallet companies also will be on hand to educate and set up users with the currency.
"We plan to make this a full bitcoin ecosystem,'' said Stephanie Wargo, vice president of marketing for BitPay. ''The goal is to take bitcoin to the next level of adoption.''
The sponsorship reflects one of the most prominent marketing efforts yet for a bitcoin-related business and is intended to promote national interest in the currency. Terms of the deal were not announced.
Based in Atlanta, BitPay approached ESPN about the title sponsorship after a fan held up a sign asking his mom to send bitcoins during the broadcast of ESPN's College GameDay at Auburn University last year. Bitcoin fans, using a scannable QR code on the sign, found his bitcoin address and sent him about $23,000 worth of the currency.
"College football fans and the bitcoin community represent a similar target demographic: highly educated men between the ages of 17 and 54," Wargo said.
The game, which will air on ESPN, is in its first year of its new affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference (which includes Florida State and Miami) and American Athletic Conference (USF and Central Florida). Tickets go on sale later this summer.
The game's previous title sponsor was Beef O'Brady's, a restaurant chain that held the naming rights since 2009. Its contract expired after last year's game.
Bowl officials expect BitPay's involvement will generate interest in the game beyond sports.
"We're extremely excited to welcome BitPay," said Brett Dulaney, executive director of the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. "It's something that's new and different and probably not a lot of people know about it.''
Founded in 2011, BitPay works with 38,000 merchants worldwide who use bitcoins, a deregulated currency exchanged without the transaction fee charged by credit card processors. People can buy them through a private exchange or create them by completing a mathematical algorithm — a process known as mining.