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What’s up with celebrities and cryptocurrency?

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Actor Matt Damon at a photo call in Cannes, France, in 2021.

Actor Matt Damon told viewers that "fortune favors the brave" during a Super Bowl ad for Crypto.com. Valery Hache/Getty Images

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The values of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum have plunged in recent months. And with the crash, some celebrities who have advertised 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 with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about the endorsement relationship. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Celebrities endorse stuff all the time. Why is that money endorsement relationship kind of different?

Emily Stewart: Well, I think it’s one thing if a celebrity tells you to buy a bag of chips, right? You don’t like the chips, they’re gross, fine. But when it’s your money, it’s a little bit of a different story. It’s obviously a little bit higher stakes than chips that you don’t like.

Ryssdal: Can we talk then about specifically crypto, which is the thing that honestly, you know, back during the Super Bowl and Matt Damon and “fortune favors the brave” and all this. And now crypto is tanking and I’m going, “How do you feel now, Matt Damon?” He probably isn’t too worried about it, but the people who bought crypto because Matt Damon said fortune favors the brave are kind of out of luck.

Stewart: Right. I mean, I think it goes without saying, you know, not always a great idea to follow celebrities into any investment. Celebrities are rich, for reasons having nothing to do with their crypto investments. Whether that be Reese Witherspoon or Tom Brady or Larry David, I would venture to guess that these people have investment managers who probably tell them not to do a ton of crypto. But, you know, we really did see, I think, at the beginning of the year and late last year just a ton of celebrities really diving into crypto. And it really kind of mainstreamed crypto in a way that to me felt a little bit different. And I think a lot of people, you know, got really excited and kind of didn’t realize that crypto has historically gone through these boom and bust cycles. And right now we are in a bit of a crypto winter, I guess.

Ryssdal: Does it work? I mean, does Tom Brady doing whatever that weird plug in ad thing was, I don’t even remember, but does that make people buy crypto?

Stewart: I mean, it’s hard to say. You know, Morning Consult did a survey that found that about 20% of investors and 45% of crypto owners said that they would invest in cryptocurrency if famous people endorsed it. That was behind financial advisers and family members or business reporters. But that’s not nobody. And I think kind of more broadly, like I said before, there is this mainstreaming of it. Like maybe I didn’t see the Tom Brady ad or the Larry David ad and then buy bitcoin or whatever. But it does kind of put it more into the water stream in a way that maybe I start to think about it.

Ryssdal: So look, the first time I heard about that Matt Damon ad — which, you know, many Super Bowl ads are released, you know, a day or two in advance, whatever — but even if you didn’t watch the Super Bowl, you saw that Matt Damon “fortune favors the brave” ad somewhere in your social feed. And that’s got to be the multiplier.

Stewart: Right. That’s the thing, it’s kind of everywhere. And you see this stuff all the time, where just maybe, you know, it’s not a single commercial that you’ve saw, but just, it kind of gets in there. Even last year, I had friends who never in their lives asked me anything about investing suddenly saying, like, “Hey, but I need to make some quick money. Do you think I should get into crypto?” And the answer there is like absolutely not. And if you’re asking me about it, it is way too late.

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