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Crypto is coming to the Super Bowl.
On February 13, the Cincinnati Bengals will face the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles. And the broadcast will feature more crypto than ever before.
FTX, the $32 billion crypto derivatives exchange that has been on a sports marketing spending spree in the past year, bought a Super Bowl ad in October. Just days before Christmas, rival exchange Crypto.com followed suit. The cost of an ad in this year’s game (Super Bowl LVI) is $6.5 million for just 30 seconds of airtime—but these crypto exchanges are flush with revenue from trading fees as crypto soared during the pandemic.
Of course, the crypto Super Bowl ads are just part of a larger trend. Cryptocurrency exchanges like FTX, Crypto.com, Coinbase, and Binance are pouring millions into sports marketing to reach new customers and amplify their name recognition.
And FTX and Crypto.com may not be the only crypto names we see in this year's Super Bowl.
Crypto's sports push
Big crypto companies are pivoting to sports advertising for one massive reason: recognition.
“We are really coming from behind on name recognition. When someone's looking to get involved in crypto for the first time, we've found that they haven't heard of FTX,” FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried told Decrypt at a live event last November.
“Going into different sports just allows me to reach everybody where they are. Super Bowl is just one more step into that, where it's as mass as you get,” echoed Crypto.com CEO Kris Marszalek to the WSJ last month. (It remains to be seen whether Crypto.com will re-air its much-hated Matt Damon ad or deliver something new.)
And while both FTX and Crypto.com have spent millions on Super Bowl ads, it is far from the first time the rival companies have put their names on sports events, sports arenas, or even sports jerseys.
In November 2021, Crypto.com paid a reported $700 million for the naming rights to the Los Angeles Lakers' home stadium, the Staples Center. Now, the Lakers play at the Crypto.com Arena. Also last year, Crypto.com became a sponsor for Italy's most prestigious soccer cup tournament final, the Coppa Italia.
FTX has been busy too.
In April, FTX landed a mammoth 19-year deal with the NBA's Miami Heat that saw the exchange become the Heat's “official and exclusive” crypto partner. The American Airlines Arena—what the Heat's home stadium used to be called for over 20 years—also became FTX Arena.
FTX's partnership with the Miami Heat is undoubtedly Sam Bankman-Fried's marquee sports deal, but the FTX CEO has been busy landing an array of other high profile deals. FTX US recently landed agreements with the Golden State Warriors, the Washington Wizards, and the NHL's Washington Capitals. Umpires in Major League Baseball even sport the SBF-led exchange's logo on their uniforms. And Bankman-Fried believes it's working: "Everyone we talk to who knows us a little bit, or a lot, or barely, or intimately, this is top of mind for them," he said on the first episode of Decrypt's gm podcast. "Clearly this has penetrated more than everything else we've done combined, in terms of people's perception of us. Not in terms of installs per dollar spent, though."
Coinbase—which has not announced a Super Bowl ad—is hot on FTX's heels in sports spending. In October, the exchange became the NBA's and WNBA's official cryptocurrency partner—crowding the basketball and crypto room even further.
Last month, Coinbase also nailed on a deal with NBA star (and early Coinbase investor), Kevin Durant.
NFTs in the Super Bowl
Crypto exchanges aren't the only ones infiltrating football. NFTs, the red-hot blockchain-based digital collectibles, have pushed their way into sports, and major consumer brands are participating in the NFT boom.
Last week, Bud Light began using a Nouns NFT as its Twitter PFP, seemingly as part of a Nouns DAO vote that could include Nouns imagery being shown in a Bud Light Super Bowl ad.
And then there's Bored Ape Yacht Club. This year's Pepsi-sponsored halftime show is a who's who of the world's most famous rappers, including Eminem and Snoop Dogg, both of whom own Bored Ape NFTs.
Eminem bought his $452,000 Bored Ape last month (interestingly, the ape looks a lot like Eminem). Snoop Dogg owns a plethora of NFTs, but did not take the Bored Ape bait until December. “When I APE in I APE all the way in!!” Snoop tweeted last month.
Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Dr. Dre—who round out the five performing in the halftime show (at least the five who have been named)—haven’t jumped on the NFT bandwagon yet, but with other rappers including Post Malone, KSI, Rich the Kid, and Timbaland all having bought Apes as well, that could change.
Most interestingly, an ambitious DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) tried to throw its hat into the Super Bowl ring as well.
DAOs want in too
A group of crypto enthusiasts operating under the collective SuperDAO had the goal of raising $20 million through the sale of NFTs that would, in turn, finance a Super Bowl ad. The DAO failed to reach its funding goal (by a lot), raising just $20,000. But much like ConstitutionDAO last November, the effort shows the potential for what DAOs could eventually achieve.
SuperDAO's NFT push was coordinated by a separate entity, BPNFT, which founder Steven Echtman described as “sort of like the company that's manufacturing the collectibles.” Based in Delaware, BPNFT is essentially an art studio in the business of creating and selling collectibles. “Ultimately," Echtman said, "the vision is... how do we use this as a vehicle to build awareness of NFTs and build awareness for these artists, and help them to support themselves and each other?”
SuperDAO is now setting its sights on a Super Bowl ad in 2023, but before then, it aims to send a SuperDAO artist to this year's Super Bowl. A token fundraiser via the SuperDAO community will be used to send “at least one” of the DAO’s artists to this year’s big game, according to Echtman.
And if Bud Light does end up giving a nod to Nouns NFTs based on the Nouns DAO proposal, that would also be seen as a big win for DAOs.
Update, Feb. 10: This story was updated to specify how much money SuperDAO raised.