Diana Bradley
Feb 18, 2022

How Coinbase stole Pepsi's thunder as the most-talked about brand during the Super Bowl

Even though Coinbase’s website wasn’t ready for its own success.

How Coinbase stole Pepsi's thunder as the most-talked about brand during the Super Bowl

The brand that everyone was talking about during Super Bowl LVI was Coinbase, according to social media monitoring company Brandwatch.

The cryptocurrency exchange platform’s ad featured only a bouncing QR code, leading those who scanned it to Coinbase's site, which was promoting a $15 Bitcoin giveaway for joining the cryptocurrency marketplace. 

After airing the 60-second $14 million ad, Coinbase CMO Kate Rouch said in a blog post on Monday that the company had more than 20 million hits on its landing page in one minute. That led Coinbase’s app to crash for a short time. Rouch said the volume of users forced Coinbase to “temporarily throttle” its systems.

In total, Coinbase was mentioned 79,000 times on Twitter, making it the most-talked about brand on the platform during the game, according to Brandwatch. 

In previous years, Pepsi has been the most-talked about brand on social media during the Super Bowl, because it sponsors the halftime show.

Kellan Terry, head of comms and PR for Brandwatch, notes that there are several reasons why Coinbase was able to steal Pepsi’s thunder. For one, many people were “awestruck” that the company spent millions of dollars to run an ad that was “essentially a screensaver” of a QR code, he says.

“Others were amused by the QR code itself, stating how they struggled to capture the code with their devices because the code was continuously moving,” Terry says. “Finally, there is a healthy amount of discussion about Coinbase’s site and how the traffic the ad produced led the site to briefly crash, allegedly.”

He adds that cryptocurrency is very “in” on the internet these days.

“If you need more proof of this fact, look no further than the amount of crypto ads that ran during the Super Bowl this year,” says Kellan.

Although Coinbase’s ad stole the conversation on Twitter, it came in last on USA Today’s Ad Meter, with a 3.8 overall score.

Steve Hoechster, director of content and comms at Stensul, applauds that the Coinbase ad turned millions of TVs into “call to action buttons.” But he adds that the brand forgot to check to see if the website could handle traffic to the landing page.

“Great concept, poor execution,” says Hoechster.

Trevor Hale, founder and CEO of Fruition Global Communications, says that the people he was watching the game with at an event were skeptical when they first saw the Coinbase ad, with one person stating that they “thought the projector was broken.”

Other comments he heard included: "They spent $7 million on that?" and "We've been talking about the Coinbase ad now for 10 minutes, so maybe that's the point."

Brendan Lewis, Klarna’s former US head of communications, notes that the ad was brilliant in its simplicity and meme-jacking.

“It stood out in a sea of celeb-powered commercials because of that,” says Lewis.

The other most-talked about brands on Twitter Sunday night included: Pepsi (76,000 mentions), Budweiser (43,000 mentions), Disney+ (36,000 mentions) and Expedia (26,000 mentions), according to Brandwatch.

“Pepsi’s mentions were, of course, driven by the halftime show, but more specifically these mentions also focus on Pepsi’s #TakeHomeHalftime sweepstakes where social users entered to win prizes from the brand,” says Terry.

Looking into sentiment, Booking.com had the most positive sentiment among Twitter users, with 94.9% mentions being positive. Additionally, Sam’s Club saw 90% positive sentiment and Expedia saw 87.8% positive sentiment. On the other side, Cue Health saw 71.3% negative mentions, Brandwatch found.

“The negativity in this conversation stems from people finding the tech of Cue Health somewhat unnerving, and additionally some people felt the need to argue the state of the COVID-19 virus and its mandates in certain areas,” says Terry.

The night’s major theme: Nostalgia

Verizon’s ad had Jim Carrey reprise his 1996 role as The Cable Guy to promote its ultrafast 5G wireless network; T-Mobile reunited Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison; General Motors had Mike Myers play his Austin Powers character Dr. Evil; and Chevrolet recreated the opening sequence to The Sopranos to tout its all-electric Chevy Silverado.

Carrey’s “Cable Guy” was mentioned more than 6,700 times during the game, Myers’ “Dr. Evil” received over 3,700 mentions, and “The Sopranos” got over 28,000 mentions on Twitter, found Brandwatch.

Nostalgia is the single most powerful emotion a brand can hope to harness on the internet, notes Terry. He adds that bringing consumers back to the “glory days” is bound to get people’s attention.

“The question that needs to be asked is this: Were the ads that aired during Super Bowl LVI trying to jog our emotional response in an attempt to connect and harness those feelings of nostalgia, or are brands recognizing the passing of the ‘consumerism baton,’” he says. “Perhaps never so clearly has there been such a large event where so many brands came forward to silently say, ‘And now we are going to sell and speak to you.’”


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