For those in advertising, last year’s Super Bowl wasn’t defined by the Los Angeles Rams beating the Cincinnati Bengals, but rather the emergence of the crypto sector as a major advertising category.
Crypto brands including FTX, Coinbase, Crypto.com and eToro dished out $7 million for 30 seconds of air time during the 2022 NFL championship broadcast. Crypto brands spent $54 million on Super Bowl LVI advertising overall, according to research firm MediaRadar.
FTX in particular made a huge splash with a spot featuring comedian Larry David, who appropriately expressed skepticism about the company in one of its own ads.
For the crypto sector, it was the beginning of a sports marketing blitz. In June 2021, FTX entered a five-year sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball and umpires wore FTX patches on their uniforms well into 2022. The crypto exchange also signed Tom Brady as a brand ambassador and an investor in 2021.
But things have taken an abrupt turn for FTX since the crypto exchange filed for bankruptcy on November 11, leading to a termination of its MLB sponsorship. The firm has gone from owning some of the biggest arenas in sports, including the home of the Miami Heat, to owing creditors more than $3 billion, according to recent court filings.
As the MLB pulls patches off its umpires and the NBA renames its stadiums, will FTX leave a large bitcoin-shaped hole behind in sports marketing?
Who will take crypto’s place at the Super Bowl?
As the future of FTX hangs in the balance, ad buyers are gearing up for Super Bowl LVII.
But FTX and some of its crypto peers may not buy another spot at next year’s game — especially since the celebrities who endorsed FTX last year (including David) are being sued for deceptive business practices. So far, just two crypto brands — exchange OKX and blockchain game company Limit Break — have plans to advertise during the Super Bowl.
So who will fill the gap that FTX has left behind?
As usual, ad experts are betting on CPG, food and drink, travel and automobile brands, which have historically been strongly represented at the NFL Championship, to show up in a big way again this year. Beer brands are already gearing up to join the fray as Anheuser-Busch’s exclusive rights over the category come to an end for the first time in 30 years. Molson Coors, for instance, has already reserved a spot.
Tech companies could also make a big push around their metaverse and virtual offerings, but layoffs and economic headwinds in recent months have left “a big question mark” over their appetite for investment, said Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester.
Beyond the usual suspects, agency experts expect new categories to emerge closer to the game, as brands with sufficient budgets buy spot media. Discounted Super Bowl spots are still incredibly expensive, but brands that can’t afford the full price tag may find opportunities left open by crypto’s retreat.
“There are advertisers that are completely content with sitting and waiting for last-minute opportunities,” said Adam Schwartz, SVP, director of sports media at Horizon Media.
Basia Wojcik, VP of sports at The Marketing Arm, agrees that some brands that might not seem like they have enough money to invest in the Super Bowl might surprise viewers with a last minute ad buy. But as brands reduce their marketing spend overall in light of economic headwinds, just as many newcomers may decide the time isn't right for their Big Game debut.
Last minute media buys require quick-turn creative — putting the pressure on creative agencies to produce Super Bowl-quality ideas fast. That challenge makes it even more likely that traditionally big spenders with well established Super Bowl playbooks will fill last minute ad opportunities, said Forrester’s Pattisall.
Despite FTX’s flameout, agencies aren’t counting out crypto brands to show up at the Super Bowl just yet.
According to Horizon’s Schwartz, given that the NFL limits how much each category can spend on Super Bowl ads overall, FTX’s collapse may benefit other crypto brands who can join the space or increase their spending.
“Who’s going to come out as the leader in the clubhouse?” Wojcik said. “They’re all fighting for that brand awareness.”