The Business of Influence

Did FTX kill the age of influence?

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The FTX story just Keeps. Getting. Worse. Less than a year ago, the former crypto giant was valued at $32 billion while its golden-boy founder graced magazine covers. Now, SBF’s being called the “millennial Madoff” for his role in a scandal that’s “worse than Enron.” Big yikes.

FTX investors and account holders aren’t the only ones left holding the bag either. Here’s a closer look at how the fallout is changing the celebrity influencer game as we know it.

The People vs. Celebrity Influencers

Turns out Larry David was right to be skeptical. Now, the Curb star is part of a who’s who of A-list defendants being accused of using their celeb status to promote the web3 Ponzi scheme, alongside Steph Curry, Shaq, Tom Brady and Gisele.

It may feel like this lawsuit is just doing exactly what FTX did – leveraging big names for big publicity – but no one’s claiming the celebs were actively involved in the fraud. Or even understood what they were endorsing (something Curry’s ad made perfectly clear). Still, there are different rules for pushing securities vs. supplements, a lesson the OG celeb influencer Kim Kardashain learned the hard way in October, when she was fined $1.26 million for shilling cryptocoins on IG.

MSN | November 18, 2022

Celebrity investors got burned too

At its peak, everyone from Goop to Eminem joined the Bored Ape (Yacht) club as investing in the colorful NFT collection became Hollywood’s trendiest new flex. Apparently A-listers are every bit as prone to financial FOMO as the rest of us. (Celebs, they’re just like us!) And their investments got hit just as hard when FTX’s collapse pushed crypto prices down even further.

Justin Bieber’s Bored Ape #3001 took a 95% hit in value; purchased for $1.3M in January, it’s now worth an estimated $70K. (Is it too late now to say sorry?) Fueled by FTX, the NFT market just keeps dipping, partly due to spooked investors and partly due to crypto’s shrinking buying power.

Decrypt | November 16, 2022

Ronaldo x Binance 🚀

Maybe Ronaldo was too busy forcing his Man U release to pay attention to the latest web3 news, but the soccer superstar recently joined forces with FTX’s former rival Binance to launch an NFT collection on the eve of the World Cup. And while we’re sure the endorsement deal was in the works long before FTX broke, it’s still not great timing, considering, well, see above… 

Here’s hoping Ronaldo took his cut in fiat.

Insider | November 21, 2022

From OC to SEC 

File this under “I told you so”: Ben McKenzie (aka Ryan from The O.C.) first sounded the alarm about the dangers of lax regulations and celebs like TB12 and Kim K shilling crypto in a 2021 guest post for Slate. Now, he’s writing a book about it, called “Easy Money.”

The more McKenzie researched, the more worried he got about crypto’s potential to defraud retail investors. “It’s a massive speculative bubble,” he told a Wall Street Journal conference last month, saying he felt “an obligation to speak out.” Call him the world’s first anti-crypto celebrity influencer.

Wall Street Journal | October 25, 2022

Say goodbye to the age of influence?

FTX may not mean the end of the celebrity endorsement (clearly), but it might make influencers think twice before dropping their next #ad. According to MarketWatch, YouTube stars like Meet Kevin were paid $2,500 for every FTX mention, and some even received commissions for customer referrals. 

Now, these financial influencers are scrambling to issue apology videos, claiming they were duped by FTX just like everyone else. Fans and federal investigators aren’t as sure, and SEC fines could be incoming. So stay tuned, and don’t forget to like and subscribe. haha.

MarketWatch | November 22, 2022