Crypto dominated the largest stage in the world with a series of ads during Super Bowl LVI. Now those companies are in the spotlight again as their industry falters.
Four crypto firms were most prominent during the football game: Coinbase,
Crypto.com, eToro, and FTX. Their spots helped lift total crypto ad spending in February to $73 million, according to the research firm MediaRadar.
“[The ads] were not about what crypto is, or why it’s a good investment,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing company Metaforce. “The only story they were telling was: ‘Don’t miss the boat. It’s the next big thing. Don’t get left behind.””
That message is a tougher sell while the frenzy in digital assets cools and markets falter. Some firms are now scaling back, rescinding job offers and laying off employees.
Here is a look at four ads and where the companies are now.
Coinbase Global Inc.
The Ad: Coinbase’s pitch was simple: a QR code that bounced around the screen like a DVD screen saver. (Remember those?) The code linked to a sign-up promotion that included the chance to win a $3 million giveaway. The firm said it received more than 20 million hits on its landing page within one minute.
Coinbase has been bleeding users this year, and on June 14 the company said it was slashing its workforce by 1,100 employees, or about 18% of its staff. Chief Executive Brian Armstrong said the company had grown too quickly and a potential recession “could lead to another crypto winter.” Coinbase, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the US, went public last year, and its IPO was deemed a watershed moment for the emerging industry.
The Ad: No reference to crypto. Instead, LeBron James travels back to 2003 to tell his younger self that “if you want to make history, you got to call your own shots.” The tagline: “Fortune favors the brave.”
Last year, the company paid to sponsor the former Staples Center—home to Mr. James and the Los Angeles Lakers—and rename the venue the Crypto.com Arena. The crypto exchange also tapped actor Matt Damon as a brand ambassador. On June 10, Crypto.com CEO Kris Marszalek
said on Twitter that his firm would make “targeted reductions” of about 5% of its workforce, or 260 jobs.
The Ad: Larry David stars as a misguided naysayer throughout history, turning down inventions like the wheel, the fork, coffee, and—in the present day—crypto.
Despite the market’s recent downturn, FTX founder Sam Bankman -Fried on June 6 said in a Twitter thread that FTX wouldn’t freeze hiring: “Sometimes, when others Zig, you Zag.” Mr. Bankman-Fried in May bought a 7.6% stake in trading app Robinhood Markets Inc.
The Bahamian exchange has ventured into sports marketing, including a sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball and a $135 million naming-rights deal for the home of the NBA’s Miami Heat. FTX also signed football star Tom Brady and his wife, model and businesswoman Gisele Bündchen, for a $20 million ad campaign.
The Ad: A man typing in “Crypto? Stocks? Where to start?” gets swept into the air to the tune of “Fly Me to the Moon.”
eToro has avoided disastrous crypto-winter headlines thus far. The “social investing” brokerage’s popularity has stemmed from interactive elements such as live-chat feeds and trending stocks. Last year, the company ran a series of online ads featuring actor Alec Baldwin, promoting its new CopyTrader feature that allows users to automatically mimic the trades of other investors. In April, eToro also expanded into NFTs with the launch of eToro.art, a $20 million fund to purchase nonfungible tokens.
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Appeared in the June 18, 2022, print edition as ‘The Super Bowl’s (Fallen) Stars.’