Crowdfunding – The Official Sponsor of The 2014 Olympics?



Whenever you hear the words “Jamaican Bobsledding Team” you can’t help but think of the early 90′s Disney film “Cool Runnings.” But now that team may be associated with something else: crowdfunding.

On Sunday news broke that the Jamaican team had qualified for the Olympics for the first time in over 10 years. Team member Winston Watt set up a PayPal account to raise at least $40,000 to help pay for travel expenses. Watts, who says he has spent $100,000 of his own money in an attempt to ensure qualification, said: “It means the world to Jamaica. We have dominated in summer sports like athletics and now we’ve qualified for the Winter Olympics.”

But it isn’t only the members of the team that want these guys to make it to Russia. Lincoln Wheeler, a fan of the Winter Games (with no connection to the Jamaican team), launched a grassroots funding drive within hours on the crowdfunding site Crowdtilt, and by Tuesday, it had raised more than $115,000, far surpassing its goal of $80,000.

Crowdtilt wasn’t the only campaign for the team. A separate one on the international platform Indiegogo.com had topped $40,000 on Tuesday. Users of the virtual currency Dogecoin donated $30,000, which was added to the Crowdtilt totals Monday night.

The bobsled team isn’t the only team we have seen using crowdfunding this year. According to CNBC, a site called RallyMe specifically focuses on athletes, teams and organizations. It has been used by the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Speedskating and U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. Alpine skier Larisa Yurkiw, who will be part of the Canadian team in Sochi, raised $22,476 to help cover her costs on the Canadian crowdfunding site Pursu.it. She turned to crowdfunding after a 2009 injury kept her out of the last winter games and got her dropped by the national team.

We are seeing crowdfunding take industries by storm lately. First with film, like the monumental campaign to raise funds for the making of cult hit “Veronica Mars”. According to E! Online, the entire campaign for the film raised over $5.7 million. The LA Times reported it as the biggest film campaign in Kickstarter history, and the fastest to reach the $1 million benchmark. It prompted other film makers like Zach Braff to see this as a viable option for funding.

And now we are seeing the impact it can make on the Olympic Games. “If you look back at social media and its impact on the 2008 election, that was a turning point,” said Crowdtilt CEO James Beshara in an interview. “With crowdfunding, we’re about four or five years behind, but you’re seeing very much of the same story. These are tools of independents and early adopters. I think we’re going to start to see crowdfunding not only become a big part of the Olympics, but also go into our weekly and daily lives.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a “Cool Runnings”sequel made – “Cool Runnings 2: They Crowdfunded Their Way Into Our Hearts.”

This piece was written by Meredith Lepore and is republished by permission.

Image credit: CC by Christine Rondeau

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