As both an elite pitcher and power hitter, Anaheim Angels’ Shohei Ohtani has been compared to the legendary Yankees player Babe Ruth. That kind of stardom can go a long way when paired with the right brand, and leading cryptocurrency exchange FTX has doubled down on both the American League MVP and baseball itself. Following a five-year deal with MLB last June and a deal in November to make Ohtani both a global ambassador for FTX and a stakeholder, FTX has launched a new ad campaign with the Japanese slugger timed with MLB’s Opening Day.
In the 30-second spot, fans, coaches, and marketers are shown trying to come up with an appropriate nickname for the baseball phenom. The ad quickly pivots to mentioning how Ohtani is into crypto and NFTs and trades on FTX (which also pays him entirely in crypto), and then “The Great Cryptohtani” name is bestowed upon him. FTX co-founder and chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried commented to The Drum that Ohtani has the potential to become “a first-mover for financial autonomy.”
With the baseball season now in full swing, FTX seems to be carrying some momentum in the sports world. The company also recently aired a unique spot during the Super Bowl featuring veteran comedian Larry David. While that campaign was about addressing criticism and skepticism around cryptocurrency – using David’s trademark humor – the Ohtani campaign feels more forward-looking and youth-oriented, highlighting a young baseball superstar’s devotion to emergent fintech. Young people are already more inclined to use crypto, and Ohtani’s brand awareness is sky-high right now, as he’s also the cover star for Sony’s video game MLB The Show 22.
Both marketing approaches are well-crafted and seem to be resonating with crypto users and sports followers. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, the NFL remains the top sports league regularly followed by crypto users in the US, but MLB isn’t far behind. Moreover, crypto users over-index on following baseball compared to non-users, which is not true for the NFL. The more synergy on display between crypto users and baseball followers, the more likely it is that other companies in the crypto space will look to sponsor MLB, MLB teams, or individual athletes.