Crypto crashed the Super Bowl party — and it's here to stay
Keith Soljacich of Publicis Media previews the ’crypto-bowl’.
Flash back to Super Bowl LV in 2021 and the idea of the metaverse was but a whisper to the average American football fan. Flash forward to 2022 and crypto, NFT’s, blockchain and, yes, the metaverse are amplified through the cultural magnifying glass that comes with running a Super Bowl ad.
The stakes are high. You can be famous like so many Bud, Tide and eTrade commercials, or become infamous like Sales Genie. Historically, crypto ads from companies like FTX and Crypto.com have largely focused on the life-changing freedom and opportunity that cryptocurrency can bring to your life.
But would that messaging ring as clear and impactful on Super Bowl Sunday when your ads are in the fight of their life for the public’s attention, both social and cultural? Just like the market itself, the Super Bowl LVI ads that featured crypto were up and down and as unpredictable as the floor prices on those baby ape NFT’s you were eyeing on OpenSea.
Here's a look at some of my favorite ads that featured crypto, blockchain, NFT’s and the metaverse during Super Bowl LVI:
Bud Light NEXT | Zero In The Way Of Possibility
Cheers to Bud Light for leaning in to NFT’s, gaming and the metaverse the hardest of all as the brand shows a Web 3 world as the “preferred” lifestyle experiences for our ad heroes. Anheuser-Busch famously acquired a NounsDAO NFT and changed their Twitter avatar to include their famous glasses, which cemented their place in the community by featuring those same glasses in the spot itself and offering them as a claimable real world collectible. By connecting crypto to youth culture, Bud Light NEXT is betting on this generation of drinkers embracing their brand and its place in the metaverse.
Coinbase | QR Code
Are we ready to crown the Coinbase spot the most infamous of all Super Bowl LVI ads? I know crypto Twitter did 30 seconds after the ad aired so you’ve got to take that hype train with a HEALTHY grain of Ethereum salt. But when you break down the elements, it has all the makings of a historic spot for its ability to drive a well-executed inner monologue for the viewer.
It began with intrigue. Why is a QR code floating around my screen? Oh, this is like that episode of ‘The Office’! The best things in life are free, tracking. I’m not going to the first one at this party to stand up and scan a QR code am I? OK I’m scanning the code. It’s Coinbase! I know Coinbase! And they’re giving away a $1 million dollars in Bitcoin to 3 winners? I can be a winner?! Let’s do this. OPT IN.
And with that, millions of viewers around the globe had EXTENDED time with the brand as you processed your Pavlovian instinct to discover the unknown. This was a wholly effective lesson in Super Bowl social engineering that triggered our primordial urge to KNOW. And they would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky servers that temporarily crashed under the weight of the couch-bound army of phone tappers. But hey, $15 in free crypto is a decent offer. Sign me up as a fan of the brand for this one.
FTX | Don’t Be Like Larry David
FTX has already established itself as one of the biggest crypto media investors when they purchased the stadium naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena in 2021. In 2022, FTX brought the most straightforward and classic crypto commercial to Super Bowl LVI. It was a familiar tactic of “negging” the viewer and dangling the inevitable tagline flip in the last 5 seconds of the spot. This was by design. “It’s a higher-risk, higher-reward situation,” said Nathaniel Whittemore, the head of marketing at FTX in an interview with AdAge. But, to me this didn’t seem risky at all and the biggest risk they took was around brand recognition. A Super Bowl viewer can be a distracted viewer and counting on 5 seconds of attention is a costly risk to take. I really feel like FTX missed out on an opportunity to tell the story of their founder Sam Bankman-Fried. With a net worth of nearly $25 billion, Sam spends his time promoting his ”earning-to-give” philosophy around the world and has pledged to donate the majority of his wealth to underserved and underbanked communities and that could have been a fantastic story to tell to a global audience.
Suggested newsletters for you
There were other honorable crypto memorable mentions from the likes of Meta, who showed us that you can have new fun with your old friends in the metaverse, and Crypto.com, who brought together a young LeBron James and a current-day LeBron to have a “Back to the Future’ moment in his childhood bedroom. Matthew McConaughey said “metaverse” and EToro is sending investors to the moon. But, while there wasn’t an overt metaverse mention in the Kia Robo Dog spot, there was a claimable Robo Dog NFT and a corresponding auction for the rarest versions on Sweet.io, where 90% of the initial sale proceeds will benefit the Petfinder Foundation. It's a really smart way to extend the consumer engagement from the Super Bowl spot into Web3 content and highlight the blockchain-based next-gen giving from a brand like Kia.
While crypto, blockchain and NFT’s did make high-profile appearances in Super Bowl LVI ads, it was what was NOT featured in a spot that was interesting. For months, since the lineup of hip-hop legends including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eminem was announced to be headlining the Super Bowl Halftime show, crypto Twitter has been alive with speculation that NFT’s would make their way in the show. The evidence was strong but ultimately circumstantial as Eminem, who recently acquired a Bored Ape Yacht Club PFP, and Snoop Dogg (or Cozomo de’ Medici as he is known in NFT circles) both skipped integrating their well-known PFP’s into the show. Ultimately, neither the CryptoPunks or the BAYC needed a Super Bowl pump as these two NFT collections continue to prove they are the Apple and Android of the token generation. Who knows, maybe next year’s Super Bowl Halftime show will be IN the Bored Ape Yacht Club itself?
Going forward, it’s clear that crypto, as a category, has carved out its place in the zeitgeist of the Super Bowl. We’re also seeing demand from consumers who want to see crypto, blockchain, NFT’s and metaverse themes coming from brands and are judging those messages on their cultural relevance and impact. It sounds like crypto is here to stay on Super Bowl Sunday.
Keith Soljacich is head of innovation at Publicis Media.