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Crypto companies spent millions on Super Bowl ads. So did Pets.com

February 14, 2022, 1:13 PM UTC

Crypto.com, FTX Trading, and Coinbase were among the handful of cryptocurrency exchange companies who shelled out a reported $6.5 million for 30-second ad spots during Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI, between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s apart from the cost of hiring A-listers like Larry David, LeBron James, and Matt Damon to shill for the currency exchanges, too.

But despite the millions spent on making and airing the ads, the price of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum’s Ether flatlined afterward, with the overall crypto market down on Monday at 8 a.m. ET about 2% over the previous 24 hours.

Shares in Coinbase also followed crypto south in premarket trading Monday, leaving many (or at least some people of a certain age) remembering a similar Super Bowl in the year 2000.

Crypto Bowl—Dotcom Bowl Part 2?

Dubbed the “Dotcom Super Bowl,” watchers of the St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 were inundated with 14 advertisements from dotcom companies, who bought up 20% of the running ads, paying an average of $2.2 million per spot.

After the 2000 game ended, all of the publicly held companies who advertised saw their stocks slump as the dotcom bubble began to rapidly deflate, and today only four of the 14 companies are still operating. Five other companies were bought out, and the rest, such as Pets.com—the company that embodied the hype of the 2000 dotcom boom—went under.

With the Dotcom Bowl in mind, many investors approached this year’s Crypto Bowl—where 40% of this year’s advertisers were new companies—with a dollop of cynicism.

Most of this year’s crypto ads revolved around the idea of “don’t miss out,” trying to attract new investors into the crypto boom—a tricky tactic when the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have shed half their value since their peak in November 2021. Singapore-based Crypto.com’s eight-figure ad campaign featured actor Matt Damon and pushed the message that “fortune favors the brave.”

Rather than the cinematic 4K advertisement experiences made by FTX and Crypto.com, American crypto exchange Coinbase took a more basic approach, using an interactive ad featuring a moving QR code. Once scanned, viewers were taken to the Coinbase website, where they were told to “sign up and get $15” or “opt in to win $3M.” The ad was so popular it crashed the Coinbase website, but not enough to move its share price. Coinbase shares fell a little over 1% in premarket trading on Monday.

(The largest crypto exchange, Binance, chose a different route, warning the crypto-curious to take care by posting a 30-second video of Miami Heat small forward Jimmy Butler on Twitter, saying, “On Feb. 13, some of the biggest names are going to be telling you to get into crypto. Binance and I, we’re here to tell you: Trust yourself, and do your own research.”)

Even those who support the use of Super Bowl ads to generate brand recognition note that it’s not a fail-safe strategy. University of Delaware’s John Antil, an associate professor of marketing who focuses on Super Bowl advertising, says ads for an established and expensive event like the Super Bowl cultivate legitimacy and trust. He previously told Fortune the Super Bowl is the “best vehicle” for smaller, lesser-known brands to generate awareness, which is especially useful when the mainstream perception of crypto is risky.  

But Antil did warn that the Crypto Bowl could turn out just like the Dotcom Bowl of 2000, saying, “Most dotcom companies in the [2000] broadcast didn’t last until next year.”

Twitter reactions

Some on social media offered a counterpoint to the striking similarity between the two events, arguing that even if there is a similar bust, the internet and websites are still alive and kicking—in doing so implying that crypto will also likely be healthy in some form in the future. Others, however, were more pessimistic.

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