The CryptoBowl Preyed on Its Audience

Feb 18, 2022 | Techonomy

If you take a bunch of Super Bowl fans already punch drunk on chicken wings and beer and serve them up the suggestion of easy gains in crypto, it’s a recipe for risky behavior.

OK, maybe I wouldn’t know a Bengal from a Ram if they were charging down the street. But I do know that if you take a bunch of Super Bowl fans already punch drunk on chicken wings and beer and serve them up the suggestion of easy gains in crypto, it’s a recipe for risky behavior.

Unlike a year ago, when the big event’s commercials were a bit treacly but focused on our inner-heroes and helping each other stay united, this year’s were all about getting rich quick.

While most of you probably sat glued to the TV, I sat on a Twitter Space hosted by marketing and Web3 experts Jeremiah Owyang and Blake Menezes, who kept a running score of ads that mentioned coin, NFTs, or crypto. These guys didn’t know much about foorball but the12 million people watching the Super Bowl  probaly new very little about crypto. The setup for a culture collision.

Ads can educate, I suppose.  But these ones appealed not to any logic or investing analysis, but rather to FOMO. They encouraged speculation by leaning heavily on star power.  Seeing wealthy celebs bathe in the crypto glow was meant to tantalize prospects even more. By the time the spectacle ended I was thinking about starting a chapter of Crypto Anonymous.

Let’s meet the players:

Best Pay to Play

The Coinbase ad. Apparently, it cost upwards of $14 million to run. But all it showed was a bouncing QR code that, when scanned with your phone, offered $15 worth of free Bitcoin to new registrants for the crypto trading platform. (Previously registered members were entered in a raffle that gave away a total of $3 million.) The response was so overwhelming that the Coinbase website went down following the commercial. And based on the next day’s trades in the company’s stock, Coinbase fell victim to its own success. But a second-day story in Benzinga featured Chief Product Officer Surojit Chatterjee taking a victory lap. “We had over 20 million hits on our landing page in one minute. That was historic and unprecedented. We also saw engagement that was six times higher than our previous benchmarks.” Whether the ad was genius or a cynical and fleeting play for traffic is still being debated.

The Coinbase ad featured a QR code that moved like Pong across the screen.

Bitbuy, a Canadian crypto exchange, spent roughly a quarter of its 2022 marketing budget on its Super Bowl ad starring Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry talking about missing shots and urging viewers not to miss theirs.

Most Authentic Player

FTX, another crypto-exchange, ran a killer ad that featured Larry David playing the crypto-contrarian and comparing crypto to several other “it’s not gonna happen” moments like the inventions of the wheel, the lightbulb, and the authors of the American constitution deciding on the right to vote. Embracing the skepticism around crypto won points in my book for most authenticity. An earlier FTX ad featured eye candy in the form of Tom Brady and wife Gisele Bündchen phoning all their friends to ask if “they’re in”. (Brady is part owner of FTX).

Most Social Players

With flying avatars, eToro’s ad painted a picture of crypto trading as social investing and the democratization of investing.’s showed Lebron James giving a pep talk to his younger self about taking risks.

Best Drinking Partner

Budweiser promoted BudLite Next, a zero-carb beer, by working with Nouns DAO to launch its first NFT project featuring 12,722 unique tokens.

Best Thorn in the Side

Binance, one of the largest exchanges, chose not to advertise, but ran a counter-campaign on social media called #cryptocelebs cautioning folks about getting sucked into celebrity-laden ads about crypto.

Old Fashioned

Now that straight-ahead sports gambling has become legitimate in many states it was a big night to promote gambling’s risks as well. DraftKings’  commercial egged everyone to seek their fortune, while Caesars Sportsbook’s ad featured a Roman-themed celebrity showcase.

The Meta Bowl

Credit: Meta/YouTube

Meta’s crypto days may be over, but it has a new venture to hype — the metaverse. The ad it created was a pretty sorry look at the future of Horizon Venues, a virtual performance space. It looked like a place where old, tired has-beens get infused with new life. (A metaphor for its corporate parent?) A washed-up animatronic dog tossed in the rubbish gets reborn in the metaverse.




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