Crypto calls a time out on Super Bowl ads

Companies eschew big-budget slots for fear of further alienating a dubious public

Most Irish NFL fans who can keep their eyes open late enough to watch Super Bowl LVII on Sunday night will be watching on Sky Sports or Virgin Media 1 and will, consequently, be spared the brunt of the big-budget bacchanal of advertising that accompanies the US broadcast. But if you are one of the unlucky ones, you might notice something very different from last year’s broadcast.

After an avalanche of high-profile Super Bowl adverts last year paid for by the likes of Coinbase, and, yes, even Sam Bankman-Fried’s disgraced FTX, not a single spot in this year’s broadcast will feature a crypto exchange. That is hardly surprising given the existential threat that the industry is facing after the meltdown that wiped an estimated $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) off the overall market capitalisation of the sector from its peak in May 2021. Coinbase, for example, paid no less than $14 million for its memorable slot last year – a QR code bouncing across the screen – less than a year before it laid off about 950 people, 20 per cent of its global workforce. Other big players are similarly battening down the hatches for a protracted downturn.

Pruned-back advertising budgets are certainly one factor behind this reversal. Optics is another. Fox’s vice-president of ad sales told the Associated Press last week that some crypto companies were close to inking deals for slots, only to pull out of the negotiations after the unceremonious collapse of Bankman-Fried’s FTX last year. “It just feels like bad manners,” Haider Rafique of crypto exchange OKX, one of the companies in question, told Ad Age. “No one wanted to hear from a crypto brand except an apology, which [at the time] was missing.”

But far from some sort of crowning moment for the industry in its quest for legitimacy, last year’s flurry of spending on prime time Super Bowl slots, viewed through a longer lens, looks more and more like an act of desperation. Trading volumes in crypto assets had been tumbling for six or seven months before the big game last February. The “Crypto Bowl”, as some dubbed it, actually manufactured something of a dead-cat bounce for crypto asset prices, as Bloomberg’s Michael P Regan pointed out recently – all in vain, as it turned out.


Now companies are pulling out for fear of further alienating an already leery American public. What a difference a year makes.