The values of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have plummeted in recent months. And with the crash, some celebrities who have been promoting cryptocurrencies have come under fire for encouraging people to invest in them.
Emily Stewart, senior correspondent at Vox, wrote about the relationship between celebrities and financial products and services. She spoke to “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about the endorsement relationship. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kai Rysdal: Celebrities support stuff all the time. Why is this money endorsement relationship any different?
Emily Stewart: Well, I guess it’s one thing when a celebrity tells you to buy a bag of chips, right? You don’t like the fries, they’re disgusting, fine. But when it’s your money, it’s a slightly different story. It’s obviously slightly higher stakes than chips that you don’t like.
Rysdal: Can we then talk specifically about crypto, which, honestly, is back then during the Super Bowl and Matt Damon and “fortune favors the brave” and all that. And now crypto is tanking and I’m like, “How do you feel now, Matt Damon?” He’s probably not too concerned about that, but the people who bought crypto because Matt Damon said fortune favors the brave are kind of unlucky .
Steward: Right. I mean, I think it goes without saying that following celebrities to any investment isn’t always a good idea. Celebrities are rich for reasons unrelated to their crypto investments. Whether that’s Reese Witherspoon or Tom Brady or Larry David, I daresay these people have investment managers who are probably telling them not to do a ton of crypto. But you know, I think we really just saw a ton of celebrities really diving into crypto earlier this year and late last year. And it really did mainstream crypto in a way that felt a little different to me. And I think a lot of people got very excited and kind of didn’t realize that historically, crypto has gone through these boom and bust cycles. And right now, I think we’re in a crypto winter.
Rysdal: It works? I mean, is Tom Brady doing whatever that weird plugin ad was, I don’t even remember, but is that making people buy crypto?
Steward: I mean it’s hard to say. You know, Morning Consult conducted a survey that found that about 20% of investors and 45% of crypto owners said they would invest in cryptocurrency if famous people endorsed them. That was behind financial advisers and family members or business reporters. But that’s not nobody. And I think more broadly, as I said, there is this mainstreaming. Maybe I didn’t see the Tom Brady ad or the Larry David ad and then bought bitcoin or whatever. But it kind of brings it more into the water stream so maybe I’m starting to think about it.
Rysdal: When I first heard about that Matt Damon commercial — you know, a lot of Super Bowl commercials come out a day or two in advance, whatever — but even if you haven’t seen the Super Bowl, you’ve seen That Matt Damon “fortune favors the brave” ad somewhere on your social media feed. And that has to be the multiplier.
Steward: Right. That’s the thing, it’s kind of everywhere. And you see this stuff all the time, where maybe, you know, it’s not a single commercial that you’ve seen, but it just sort of gets in. Even last year I had friends who had never asked me about investing and suddenly said, “Hey, but I need to make money fast. Do you think I should get into crypto?” And the answer there is like absolutely not. And if you ask me about it, it’s way too late.
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