Who will dominate Super Bowl LVI? Madison Avenue’s money is on crypto.
Cryptocurrency exchanges are shelling out top dollar to run ads during next Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.
The largest U.S.-based exchange, Coinbase Global Inc., COIN 7.24% will be running a spot, according to a person familiar with the matter, as well as exchanges FTX and Crypto.com. Canadian exchange Bitbuy has an ad during the Canada broadcast.
Advertising during the gridiron matchup remains the priciest on television: Thirty seconds of NBC airtime can cost up to $7 million. As such, Super Bowl ads often highlight industries with cash to burn. In the past, ads for internet companies and erectile dysfunction flooded the airwaves. Now it is crypto exchanges hoping to become nationally known.
"It’s a way to get our name out there," said FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. "In terms of venues to do that, it’s hard to find a higher-profile one than this."
A two-year manic crypto rally and venture-capital investment have filled the coffers of crypto companies. Venture-capital firms poured a record $30 billion into the sector in 2021, and the newly public Coinbase Global reported $2.8 billion in profit for nine months of its fiscal year.
The crypto sector is new to sports sponsorships yet it is spending more annually than airlines, quick-service restaurants, and wine and spirits companies, according to IEG, a sponsorship consulting firm. IEG expects spending by crypto companies on sports sponsorships in North America to total more than $160 million this year.
"It’s a staggering increase in spending," said Peter Laatz, IEG’s global managing director.
"They are looking to educate people because not a lot of people have heard of these companies, and there is still some confusion about what crypto even is," he said.
FTX and Crypto.com have been especially aggressive. Crypto.com has run ads in Formula One racing, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and professional basketball. Last fall it reached a $700 million, 20-year deal for the naming rights to Los Angeles’s Staples Center. Its recent ad campaign stars actor Matt Damon.
FTX has struck deals with National Basketball Association teams and Major League Baseball, and players such as Stephen Curry. In March 2021, it paid $135 million to buy the naming rights for the Heat’s arena in Miami.
The world’s largest exchange, Binance, is launching an ad campaign on Monday criticizing peers running Super Bowl ads and hiring celebrities to promote cryptocurrencies. Binance will encourage people to educate themselves about crypto investing.
"I think it’s great that the industry is taking over the Super Bowl," said Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s founder and chief executive. At the same time, he said he wants to be sure people coming to crypto understand the risks involved.
Ironically enough, Binance’s new ads feature celebrities: Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler and Colombian singer J Balvin deliver this message.
As crypto companies increase their advertising spending, brands have pumped out crypto-theme campaigns or marketing gimmicks to leverage the buzz surrounding cryptocurrencies.
Miller Lite is running an ad during the game, but not on the broadcast itself. Rather, the ad will be visible inside a "bar" on the virtual-reality platform Decentraland, a variant on the metaverse. Miller maker Molson Coors Beverage Co. TAP.A 3.04% is unable to air ads on the official broadcast because its rival Anheuser-Busch InBev SA has long held the exclusive rights to advertise beer in the game.
The National Football League itself is playing this angle, too, offering people at the game commemorative nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, linked to their physical ticket.
TurboTax, the tax-preparation software made by Intuit Inc., ran a spot during the NFL playoffs showing a man suffering through the ups and down of crypto investing—causing him much confusion about whether he is a millionaire or not. A TurboTax expert chimes in: "Crypto is complicated, but as a tax expert with crypto experience you can hand your taxes off to me."
The number of crypto Super Bowl ads isn’t likely to exceed the dot-com roster of 2000, when more than a dozen different internet-based companies ran ads during Super Bowl XXXIV—at the height of the dot-com bubble. The most well-known then was Pets.com, largely because of its sock-puppet ad campaign. The company went bust several months later, as did some of the other internet-focused advertisers.
While that is a cautionary note for crypto companies, there are "Dot-Com Bowl" advertisers that are still around, such as WebMD and Monster.com.
FTX’s Bankman-Fried expects his peers will last as well.
"I suspect there’s a fair number of companies that are going to make it," he said.