It’s a pretty fair bet that cryptocurrency exchange FTX will be bringing its investor-quarterback Tom Brady to its Super Bowl ad on Sunday. Crypto.com is expected to bring Matt Damon back as its pitchman.
And while Coinbase has been mum on its advertising plans, rival Binance is featuring Miami Heat star forward Jimmy Butler in its Super Bowl-focused “Trust yourself” campaign that, interestingly enough, lambasts crypto’s use of celebrity pitchmen.
That’s led both Fortune and the Wall Street Journal to name Super Bowl LVI the “Crypto Bowl.”
With cryptocurrency exchanges Coinbase, FTX and Crypto.com all shelling out an estimated $7 million for 30 second spots, and Binance running a pricy ad campaign around the Super Bowl, it’s a good time to ask: Are big-dollar, high-profile sports marketing blow-outs worth the money?
See also: Crypto Sector Expected to Spend Over $160M on Sports Sponsorships in '22
Generally, Super Bowl ads are one of the best ways to reach the broadest possible audience, making them an obvious target for companies trying to build brands in the newly mainstream but poorly understood crypto industry.
In December, Crypto.com chief marketing officer Steven Kalifowitz told the Journal that a Super Bowl ad is part of its broader, sports sponsorship campaign to show that “Crypto genuinely is for everybody.”
He explained that “a lot of people are saying crypto is a fad, just the way they said the internet was a fad,” adding “Crypto is really the basis of the next version of the internet.”
Big Money Sponsorships
FTX shelled out $135 million for a 19-year naming rights deal for the Miami Heat’s stadium, a pittance compared the $700 million deal Crypto.com is reportedly paying to turn the Lakers’ Staples Arena to the Crypto.com Arena for two decades.
Coinbase recently splurged to become the “exclusive cryptocurrency partner of the [National Basketball Association] and [Women’s National Basketball Association] in October. Just today, FTX also announced a naming deal for Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix, and the Tezos blockchain put its logo on top European soccer team Manchester United.
The price tag certainly wasn’t the reason Binance decided not to run an ad in the big game itself — CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is one of the richest billionaires in crypto, alongside FTX’s Sam Brinkman-Fried.
In a Twitter post on Feb. 2, the world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance, revealed a teaser ad for the campaign it is running around the world’s biggest sporting event featuring Butler. It also plans to give away 2,222 nonfungible tokens featuring Jimmy Butler on Super Bowl Sunday.
"On Feb. 13, you're going to hear some of the biggest names telling you to get into crypto,” Butler said in the ad. “But they don't know you, or your finances. Only you do. Binance and I are here to tell you, trust yourself and do your own research."
That last part, do your own research, is an old crypto investor warning for the scam-heavy industry: Do your own research.
"Many people are interested in blockchain-based products, like crypto, but relatively few know where to start when it comes to educating themselves on these new technologies,” Zhao said in an announcement this week. “In addition to product and brand awareness, we need to help people understand the basics of crypto and be able to make more informed investment decisions … it's better to be your own expert than listen to someone who may not actually understand or care about your financial goals."
The Crypto Bowl
Whether the ads will pay off is another question. But, at least the trio of exchange advertisers can afford it.
That wasn’t the case during the dot-com boom — the last tech industry promising to change the world — when a staggering 19 internet startups ran $2 million ads in 2000’s Super Bowl XXXIV.
That was dubbed the “.com Bowl” after nearly one-third of the total spots sold that year were for internet startups. Five were out of business before yearend.
One of the Class of 2000 dot-com ads that stands out in the crypto world is “The Power of Intelligent E-Business,” filmed by the director of photography of the 1999 megahit “Fight Club” for … MicroStrategy.
You know, the business software company that CEO Michael Saylor has turned into a bitcoin purchasing play, with $4.8 billion invested — very loudly and proudly — in 125,000 BTC.
The ad itself was something of a stinker, according to Ad Age, which called it an “utterly confusing display of personal e-business services,” and jeered, “MicroExecution is more like it.”
But, the company’s still going strong — and diving just as deeply into crypto.
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