A year in review – from “Crypto Bowl” hype to crypto reality

Last year’s Super Bowl was so dominated by crypto ads that many people called it the “Crypto Bowl.”

A year in review – from “Crypto Bowl” hype to crypto reality
Representations of cryptocurrencies are seen in this illustration, August 10, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The backstory: Lots of people watch the US Super Bowl for the commercials, even if they aren’t necessarily into the game. Advertising during the Super Bowl is massively expensive. A 30-second slot can cost between US$6-7 million dollars. And last year’s Super Bowl was so dominated by crypto ads that many people called it the “Crypto Bowl.” Fast forward a year, and the crypto market has taken a big hit with bankruptcies, price drops and overall uncertainty about its future.

More recently: FTX was one of the major advertisers during the 2022 Super Bowl, but just 10 months later, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its CEO was arrested on charges of defrauding customers out of billions of dollars.

Crypto.com also got caught in the crypto winter and had to make tough decisions, like laying off 20% of its workforce, blaming FTX’s collapse. Despite this, it still decided to splurge on a US$700 million deal to rename the Staples Center stadium to the Crypto.com Arena late last year.

Coinbase, which had a particularly popular Super Bowl ad last year, has seen a 70% drop in shares and a decline in trading revenues as investors steer clear of crypto. The company also faced legal troubles, settling a New York State investigation and being investigated by the SEC.

On a positive note, Israeli-based crypto company eToro has managed to avoid negative headlines and expand its offerings to include stocks, options and NFTs. It’s one of the few bright spots in the crypto world. But, the company also publicly confirmed that it wouldn’t be advertising during the Super Bowl.

The development: This year’s Super Bowl was noticeably crypto-free. So how many ads ran for crypto at Super Bowl LVII? Zero. Nada. Zilch. Fox Sports said two crypto companies had previously booked Super Bowl ad slots, and two more were close, but then it all fell apart after the FTX collapse. The blockchain wasn’t entirely absent, though. Web3 gaming company Limit Break did run an ad giving away NFTs, and a Canadian crypto exchange company also ran an ad, but it wasn’t aired in the US.  

Key comments:

"[Crypto Bowl spending] was ego money, but it was in line with other ego money," said Peter Daboll, iSpot's chief strategy and insights officer.

"It's a big, big undertaking," said Larry Mann, a partner at global sports marketing and media agency rEvolution. "And it's expensive. It's all that goes into it beyond just the spot. It's the social campaign. All of these brands have a whole campaign that probably started two, three weeks ago and will run through the month of February."

"Imagine that person in their late 30s that doesn't work in tech, doesn't live in a major city and has heard about crypto a lot ... and then they see a Crypto.com ad or an FTX ad ... [and they'll say], 'I heard of that,'" said Andrew Chang, who spent nearly a decade as the COO of Paxos, a crypto infrastructure company.

"I hope that's not the case as I believe it would be a terrible path for the U.S. if that was allowed to happen," said Brian Armstrong, Coinbase Global's CEO, on Twitter, referring to the speculation that the SEC aims to eliminate crypto staking by retail investors.