How Crypto Lost The Super Bowl
Robert Jones
Vice President, Research & Insights at Hybrid Theory

For the players of the Super Bowl, winners and losers were determined this year on February 13th. But for advertisers of the Super Bowl who heavily invested in 30-second spots designed to move the needle on their brands, making the call between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is a protracted process that will be playing out for months. Cryptocurrency – and some of the biggest players in its ecosystem – spent big this year on the 2022 Super Bowl, hoping to create mainstream awareness and interest in a variety of different coins and exchanges. In total, four ads for cryptocurrencies ran during the broadcast, including ads for Coinbase, FTX,, and eToro, making an investment of $28 million in spend for just the airtime alone. And that doesn’t include other crypto-related initiatives, such as Budweiser’s NFT drops to promote Bud Light Next.

With more than 112 million viewers and many non-NFL fans tuning in for the spectacle and the commercials, the Super Bowl is the ideal channel for many brands looking to make their initial splash to a wide audience. But a big audience doesn’t always mean success. With both a niche product and a crowded marketplace flooded with ads for other currencies and financial products, was the Super Bowl the right investment for these brands? And did they succeed at creating interest among a broader audience with said investment?

The short answer is no. And the long answer is “probably not, but there are some interesting ideas to explore here.” So, let’s explore.

To start, when looking at the overall trends for increase in Crypto, seen in both Hybrid Theory’s audience data and Google Trends, neither aggregation shows a marked uptick in interest toward cryptocurrencies and NFTs following the Super Bowl. Which isn’t to say that there wasn’t some uptick. Coinbase and FTX were the real “winners” in that regard, with the former showing a 1.6x increase and the latter showing a 2x increase in interest during the week following the Super Bowl, only to see these gains disappear the following week once press articles and thought pieces about Crypto’s Super Bowl investment subsided. Likewise, one- and two-day gains in the prices of Bitcoin and Ethereum were immediately wiped out by drops three- and four days after the event.

This gets to the core of the problem; even in the best-case scenario, only 7% of crypto and NFT enthusiasts show a regular casual interest in the NFL and football; they’re much more likely to be interested in home investing, personal finance, and portfolio management. Few show any interest in Fantasy sports, and there’s little overlap between even gambling/sports betting and crypto.

The net result here is that it seems like in many ways the Crypto advertising missed the mark when it came to creating long-term growth and expanding the audience. While the ads certainly made some kind of splash – the Coinbase website went down due to traffic demands as a result of their QR code ad – the resulting drop in interest a week later suggests a lack of understanding of the audience. Instead of going with meaningful messaging in a relevant platform that would have resonated with their core and expanded into the margins, they opted for the strategy of making a big splash and hoping that the buzz would do the rest.

It’s relatively safe to assume at this point that investing audiences are more than aware of crypto as a product and have made up their minds on whether to be buyers at this point, so the next question is where to go next to expand interest for this audience? And that’s where a more detailed analysis of the audience and their habits might have paid off. They could have found audiences one to two steps removed in digital and CTV spaces. And then focused on those consumers to efficiently drive interest in a way that would have ultimately done more to drive expansion than the big, flashy super bowl spots.

And that better understanding likely might have yielded different results and invaluable information. They would have discovered that there’s a higher overlap and affinity between the NBA and Crypto than the NFL, owing in part to the former’s recent foray into NFTs. Or seen that YouTube channels might have been a better investment than linear TV. Or learned that Rihanna could have been a better celebrity endorsement than Larry David.

So, while it may be hard to argue with the immediate buzz generated by the Super Bowl spends, it’s also not clear what the long-term gains are. Crypto needs to start playing the long game at this point. That means embracing the behavioral intelligence capabilities and custom audience building tools that brands and agencies are using to redefine the art of building fan bases in 2022.

For an emerging sector that likes to boast about being the future of currency, it’s kind of ironic that Crypto’s best course of action is to embrace the marketing advancements of today.