In a flashy advertising campaign for Crypto.com, Hollywood star Matt Damon told potential cryptocurrency investors that “fortune favors the brave.”
But after the price of bitcoin plunged this week, erasing more than $200 billion in wealth in just 24 hours, Damon and nine other high-profile celebrities who have publicly endorsed digital currencies evidently were not brave enough to comment on the apparent market crash.
NBC News contacted representatives for Damon, as well as Larry David, Charli D’Amelio, Jamie Foxx, Paris Hilton, LeBron James, Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon. Their spokespeople did not respond to emails sent Thursday morning; Kardashian's publicist declined to comment.
Damon, David and James each appeared in eye-catching crypto commercials that aired during the Super Bowl in February. The star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” showed up in a cheeky ad for the FTX exchange, making it seem like crypto deniers would be judged as harshly by history as those who opposed silverware or the wheel. James, meanwhile, pitched for Crypto.com.
D’Amelio, Foxx, Hilton, Kardashian, Kutcher, Paltrow and Witherspoon have publicly endorsed various cryptocurrencies in recent years via social media posts or other announcements. Witherspoon, for example, tweeted in December that “crypto is here to stay" and encouraged more women to get involved.
The dramatic market sell-off this week raises troubling questions about the stability of the crypto marketplace and digital currency’s long-term value, heightening anxiety among retail investors and validating skeptics who have dismissed crypto as a fad or scam.
None of the celebrities contacted by NBC News are directly responsible for the crash, of course, but marketing experts say they helped add mainstream legitimacy to a fast-growing but poorly understood industry.
"The major celebrity endorsements across crypto — whether it's Matt Damon or Tom Brady — help consumers feel comfortable with these brands," said Jason Damata, founder and CEO of Fabric Media, a strategy and marketing company that has partnered with celebrities.
"When a celebrity puts their name on a brand in a marketplace where there's literally hundreds of choices, it helps the consumer hone in, and they're lending their trust to the product," he said.
But with any endorsement, crypto or otherwise, many consumers operate under the assumption that the pitchman has done at least some level of research into the product — in this case, digital currencies that some critics consider a wildly risky bet.
"I think consumers presume that spokespeople have done some amount of due diligence on the companies they promote," Damata said, explaining that he does not hold any of the celebrities directly responsible for fluctuations in the market.
Investors appear to be ditching crypto as the traditional stock markets start to dip from pandemic-era highs amid fears over inflation and a weakening economic outlook.