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Bowl Sponsor Is Latest Cybersecurity Spender – Sportico.com | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


If you turn to a couchmate during Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl and ask, “Wait, what’s Reliaquest?”, that’s exactly the point.  

The cybersecurity company has been around for 15 years, but CEO and founder Brian Murphy said it’s already seeing an exposure lift before Mississippi State takes on Illinois. And it’s currently far from the only cyber player using sports to expand its brand. Fortinet took over sponsorship of what had been 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 spending for sports sponsorships.

Since 1978, The Washington Post’s style section has published an updated list of what’s in and what’s out each New Year’s. For 2023, ‘crypto’ unsurprisingly landed in the ‘out’ column with the price of Bitcoin down 65% in 2022 and the industry still reeling from the fallout of FTX’s implosion. If a long crypto winter continues to chill marketing spending—amid expectations of economy-wide decreases in advertising growth next year—B2B companies like security firms could step in to fill some of the gap.

“Security is not a discretionary spend,” Murphy said. “We’re not really dramatically changing anything.”

Tech behemoths like Google and Microsoft have been on a cybersecurity buying spree over the last couple years, with Google’s $5.4 billion acquisition of Mandiant coming in as its second largest buy ever.

Reliaquest grew too, spending $160 million to expand its offerings by acquiring Digital Shadows. Headquartered in Tampa, Reliaquest partners with the NBA and has deals with multiple teams across sports. Its work with Tampa’s 2021 Super Bowl host committee led to Murphy getting a call after Outback Steakhouse ended its naming rights deal with what had originally been the Hall of Fame Bowl.

“All said, it took us probably about 18 minutes to make the decision,” Murphy said. The company picked up the remaining four years of the contract.

While Reliaquest works with major airline, bank and healthcare companies, it’s also seen the unique challenges sports teams face. For pro clubs, cybersecurity risks extend from point-of-sale devices and customer data acquired in stadiums, to protecting players’ personal information, to monitoring social media chatter around the brand.

NASCAR has even worked directly with the FBI to minimize cyber breach risk. In March, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment director of cybersecurity and risk management Ekaterina Carayanis warned that only 1% of teams and leagues had adequate practices in place. 

Ransomware attacks continue to be a threat as well, with Manchester United among those victimized in recent years.

“I think people have become a little numb to it, because they’re just used to it happening so much,” Murphy said. “But if there’s opportunity, there will be attacks, and there’s a ton of opportunity in sports.”

Ultimately, sports sponsorships provide a unique chance to buy name recognition (something crypto startups have taken advantage of as well) while getting in front of potential customers and even potential employees.

“I think kids are going to listen, they’re going to pay more attention,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to dress up as Cyber Guy and walk around, right?”

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