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So long ‘Crypto Bowl’: Booze is back big as crypto companies bail on Super Bowl ads

Crypto ads were the hit of last year’s Super Bowl. This year, it’s crickets for the digital currency industry, but fans can expect a bigger lineup of ads for adult beverages

SHARE So long ‘Crypto Bowl’: Booze is back big as crypto companies bail on Super Bowl ads
Lazaro Real Cruz, center right, reacts as Kansas City Chiefs’ Damien Williams scores during Super Bowl 54.

In this Feb. 2, 2020, file photo, Lazaro Real Cruz, center right, reacts as Kansas City Chiefs’ Damien Williams scores a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of Super Bowl 54.

Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

On Sunday, 100 million or so sports fans will see something that hasn’t been part of the Super Bowl broadcast for over 30 years.

Alcohol ads that aren’t part of the product offerings of the self-proclaimed “King of Beers,” St. Louis-based beverage giant Anheuser-Busch.

And the football faithful who tuned in last year to watch the Los Angeles Rams edge the Cincinnati Bengals may notice something missing from the 57th edition of the NFL championship game.

That’s because cryptocurrency companies, who collectively stole the show when it came to buzzy Super Bowl ads last year, will have zero presence during the Philadelphia Eagles-Kansas City Chiefs matchup Sunday on Fox Sports.

Crypto went big for Super Bowl LVI

Last year’s Super Bowl earned the “Crypto Bowl” moniker from the ad world thanks to a handful of catchy commercials that seemed to mark a coming out party for companies in the cryptocurrency industry.

FTX, Coinbase, Crypto.com and eToro each locked down spots for last year’s game that are notorious both for their extremely high prices — $6 million to $7 million for a 30-second ad this year — and for boosting both established businesses and scrappy startups that do their best to leverage creativity to tickle and/or tantalize the massive viewing audience.

It’s the stuff of legend, really. Apple’s uber-dark 1984 ad (1984); the E-Trade Baby (2008-2013); Budweiser’s Wassup (2000) Frogs (1995) and Lost Dog (2015) ads; Mountain Dew’s Puppymonkeybaby (2016), and the list goes on.

And last year’s crypto advertisers did a bang-up job when it came to snaring their own viral advertising moments.

Cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX employed “Seinfeld” co-creator and star of the eponymous hit HBO comedy show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Larry David to appear in a commercial that featured him in various historic settings as the guy-least-able-to-see-the-future. David’s trademark curmudgeonly schtick was a hit overall but earned mixed reviews from his die-hard fans who responded with either horror or celebration, depending on where they fell on the scale of crypto love.

Another crypto exchange, Coinbase, set off a hype-bomb with an ad that perfectly threaded the needle for inexplicable intrigue with a floating QR code, a la the screensaver bounce, that drew enough fan response to briefly crash the Coinbase website.

Crypto crumble

Crypto’s big footprint in last year’s run of Super Bowl ads, and the buzz they helped generate, were telltales of an industry that, at the time, was on a hot streak. But a lot can change in a year and when it comes to the crypto market, and for investors in digital currencies, post-Super Bowl 2022 turned into a long and grim ride.

Overall, cryptocurrencies lost some $2 trillion in value over the year with the heavy hitters like bitcoin and ether marking losses in excess of 60%. While the macro view was dismal, drilling into a few use-cases gets even more bleak.

While its Larry David Super Bowl ad was just one episode of a larger commercial charm offensive that included a slew of celebrity endorsers, FTX is currently garnering attention for decidedly less rosy reasons.

FTX took the first step toward an epic financial meltdown last November after details about liquidity issues became public. The company has since entered bankruptcy and FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has been indicted on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, individual charges of securities fraud and wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to avoid campaign finance regulations. Bankman-Fried pleaded innocent to the charges and faces an October trial.

Coinbase had a moment as the darling of up-and-coming, U.S.-based crypto exchanges, and enjoyed a breakout direct listing IPO in 2021 where its valuation shot up briefly to north of $80 billion. The company, however, watched its value plummet in 2022. At the close of regular trading Monday, Coinbase stock was moving at about $74.50 per share, with a market capitalization at that price of just under $17 billion.

Crypto.com and eToro are likewise struggling in a crypto industry that’s still trying to find its footing after coming down from exuberance-driven peaks in late 2021.

A post-Bud Super Bowl?

While Anheuser-Busch took a pass on renewing its exclusive contract as the Super Bowl’s only adult beverage advertiser, an inside track it had maintained from 1989 through last year’s game, it will still have an outsize presence in this Sunday’s game as the No. 1 advertiser, based on ad minutes purchased.

But fans who stay tuned in during game breaks will also see ads from beverage companies Heineken, Diageo, Remy Martin and Molson Coors, per a report from The Associated Press. Other big categories that shelled out the big bucks for Super Bowl LVII ads include packaged food like Doritos and M&Ms, movie studios and streaming services, automakers and tech companies.