As many of us recover from an overload of Super Bowl excitement and unhealthy snacks, you may have noticed a rookie among the Super Bowl commercial lineup: Cryptocurrency. Interestingly, one of Super Bowl LVI’s participants has also been in the news for his commitment to taking his entire season salary in crypto.  

Bitcoin Instead of Dollars

After a falling out with the Cleveland Browns, Odell Beckham Jr. joined the Los Angeles Rams earlier this season. That turned out to be a winning move. He signed a contract for the remainder of the 2021-22 season for $1.25 million, plus playoff incentives. But in a move that was more shocking than switching teams mid-season, Beckham also announced that he was taking his new salary in Bitcoin.  

To begin, let’s break down the “paid in Bitcoin” phrase. This does not mean the NFL or the franchise holds a supply of crypto, and players can choose whether their payments are delivered in U.S. Dollars vs. crypto. The player’s salary is still likely paid in U.S. dollars; then, he uses a crypto exchange to convert his dollars. In Beckham’s case, he signed an endorsement deal with Cash App, a mobile payment service that recently began offering stock and crypto investment capabilities to its users. When you boil it down, the mechanics of taking his salary in Bitcoin is not much different than investing his entire after-tax paycheck into the stock market. He’s transferring his U.S. dollar paychecks to Cash App instead of a brokerage account, then buying Bitcoin instead of another investment.    

Risk: Value Fluctuation

Since Odell Beckham Jr. (OBJ) announced the deal, the crypto market has been very turbulent. Hence, the current value of Beckham’s Bitcoin salary is heavily dependent on the timing of his paycheck-to-Bitcoin purchases.

The price of Bitcoin has fluctuated wildly. From around $64,000 when OBJ announced in November ’21, down as low as $35,070 in January ’22, to around $44,000 at this writing. I assume part of his salary was invested in Bitcoin at the front end and has lost substantial value. However, the interesting part is whether he’s had the benefit of purchasing Bitcoin at lower prices along the way, assuming his salary was paid out evenly over that time. Even more interesting, his Rams deal includes incentives for team playoff wins. 

Those incentives are worth far more than his initial salary and have proved lucrative given the Rams’ playoff run. We don’t know the fine print of OBJ’s Cash App deal to determine whether his playoff incentives are also being converted to Bitcoin. Still, it would be interesting if they were converted to Bitcoin during the January lows.

It’s difficult to say whether Beckham’s Bitcoin deal is currently worth more or less in relation to a U.S. dollar salary. However, we know that a salary’s value becomes a gamble when converted to crypto. When taking on that risk with paychecks, there are a couple of major distinctions to note between the average American and the publicized examples we see from athletes and celebrities.  

  • Risk: Wealthy individuals like athletes and celebrities can take financial risks that most can’t afford to take. A veteran professional athlete likely doesn’t need the upcoming paycheck to pay a mortgage or monthly bills. Most people do not have extra income lying around to put directly into any investment, let alone an extremely volatile investment.
  • Motivation: Most, if not all of these public figures taking paychecks in crypto are being paid to do it. For our example of Odell Beckham Jr., while I can’t confirm the details of the endorsement deal, I assume the Cash App is paying handsome endorsement fees to use his celebrity athlete status to promote the platform as a means to buy crypto. The advertisement makes it seem like the celebrity is taking a leap of faith to invest their paycheck; however, that likely isn’t the full story.

Conclusion

While I don’t believe that these advertisements are meant to persuade the average individual to direct their entire paycheck to crypto, it is an interesting marketing strategy that highlights a broader movement to make cryptocurrency a bigger part of our everyday finances.

Most vendors continue to require the U.S. dollar as a primary means of payment, and you generally can’t use cryptocurrencies to pay for everyday expenses like rent, mortgage, food, and medical bills. As a result, Bitcoin is still best viewed as a speculative investment rather than a reliable way to receive your paychecks.

Anthony Harcourt, CIMA® is a Portfolio Manager at Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. For more information, visit their website at www.BedelFinancial.com or email Anthony at aharcourt@bedelfinancial.com

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