Fintech

The Crypto Bowl is the beginning of a blockchain advertising bonanza

FTX, Crypto.com and others are advertising on the biggest media event of the year. But crypto companies eager for new customers aren’t stopping at the Super Bowl.

Crypto Bowl logo.

FTX, Coinbase, Crypto.com and others have booked commercial time during the most-watched media event of the year.

Illustration: Christoper T. Fong/Protocol

If you’re already feeling inundated with crypto ads, don’t watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.

FTX, Coinbase, Crypto.com and others have booked commercial time during the most-watched media event of the year. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals are playing at SoFi Stadium — another player in crypto buying — and the point-of-sale systems at the venue are run by Square, whose parent company renamed itself Block to emphasize its push into bitcoin.

But you won’t get any relief after the Super Bowl ends, either. Crypto’s advertising push is just getting started. There have been SafeMoon billboards in Times Square, bitcoin ads on Hong Kong trams, even crypto promos inside fortune cookies. It’s just going to grow, as crypto exchanges make a grab for mainstream customers.


“Fortune favors the brave,” intones Matt Damon in a much-ridiculed ad for Crypto.com that compared buying dogecoin to scaling Mount Everest. More like fortune favors the advertised.

The Super Bowl takeover is drawing comparisons to 2000’s “Dot-Com Bowl,” when a fifth of the ad space went to internet startups. A lot of those companies went bust, Jef Loeb, brand strategist for marketing firm Brainchild Creative, points out.

That said, the Super Bowl is “the single most efficient media buy on the planet. The number of impressions delivered in that period of time is unmatched by any other standard, by any other media opportunity out there,” Loeb told Protocol.

Super Bowl ads are famously expensive, going up to $7 million for a 30-second slot this year, because of their broad reach. It’s not a surprise that they’re sold out this year. Last year’s ads generated over 6.3 billion TV impressions, 26 million online views and 64 billion social impressions.

And it’s not like Sunday’s spots will be a one-off. Since January 2020, over $112.9 million has been spent on national crypto ads, according to iSpot.tv data as reported by Bloomberg.

Jed Meyer, senior vice president at Kantar, a data analytics and brand consulting firm, told Protocol that this year’s ads logically target customers with “investable assets.” (Besides the Super Bowl’s reach, football has relatively wealthy viewership.)

And why now?

“This is a new category; you have to establish a brand. Why do I want to trade crypto with Gemini versus FTX? Versus Crypto.com?” Meyer said. “They’re going to try to persuade me, either through their pitch people or through their messaging, that I want to pick them.”

Binance is mocking its rivals with a celebrity ad campaign that attacks celebrity ad campaigns. Basketball player Jimmy Butler and musician J Balvin tell viewers to do their own research.

It’s not just TV spots. Crypto.com scored naming rights to L.A.’s Staples Center for $700 million, FTX inked $135 million and $17.5 million deals for naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena and the field at California Memorial Stadium. Other crypto firms have also partnered with sports leagues in sponsorship deals.

Tightening rules

A different reason why crypto companies may be flooding the airwaves and filling billboards is that another mass medium with broad reach, online advertising, has proven harder to tap into.

In the wake of a host of crypto scams related to initial coin offerings, Google, Facebook and Twitter instituted bans on crypto ads in 2018. Those restrictions were substantially loosened last year, but the rules put in place still make it difficult for some firms to advertise.

Under Facebook’s crypto ad policy, most advertisers need prior written permission, with some limited exceptions. Google started allowing some cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets to advertise. But Google then tightened its rules to require FinCEN or chartered bank registration, and still doesn’t allow ads for DeFi protocols or specific coins.

Meera Iyer, senior vice president of marketing at Exodus, a crypto wallet provider, told Protocol that it is still not allowed to advertise because of the nature of its product, so the company’s had to rely on organic growth instead.

Iyer added that she hopes that big tech companies and other advertising media will learn how to better differentiate between serious crypto companies and scammers.

Corporate rules are one thing. Government regulators across the globe are circling to tighten things up on crypto advertising, too.

Government leaders from countries all around the world have called for more regulation, citing concerns about fraud and scams. Spain and Singapore have introduced guidelines and regulations that impose limitations on crypto ads.

The U.K. is planning a crackdown on misleading crypto ads to bring them to the same standards that apply to other financial promotions. A number of ads has already been banned by the country’s Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled they were irresponsible.

The U.S. government has not issued stringent regulation for crypto ads, but many are speculating on how much of a priority crypto ad regulation is, considering the other battles it is facing with regulating crypto itself.

Loeb, the brand strategist, is skeptical that the limits will matter: “History offers cold comfort that awareness will lead to action.”

Meanwhile, with money continuing to pour into the sector — Andreessen Horowitz is reportedly raising a $4.5 billion crypto fund, and FTX is starting a $2 billion corporate venture fund — it seems likely that firms eager to capture growth will keep placing ads wherever they can.

Fintech

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