Personal finance startup Robinhood will run an ad on Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast on CBS as it looks to repair damage to its reputation from its actions during the GameStop-AMC stock frenzy. (Watch the ad above.)
Founded in 2013, Robinhood is a digital investing platform that bills itself as a democratizing force in the investment world. But it drew fierce criticism in January for putting curbs in place to prevent traders, who had organized into a potent force on Reddit, from trading shares of companies like GameStop and AMC Entertainment. Those stocks, along with others with institutional money wagered on their declines, had been put in a “short squeeze” by retail traders, resulting in a bonanza for some individual investors but billions in losses by some hedge funds. Officials and publicly traded companies are still working to sort through the takeaways from the saga, which shows no signs of being over.
On Sunday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk conducted a brief interview with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on social media site Clubhouse. The embattled exec conceded that the restrictions on trading were “a bad outcome” but he insisted “we had no choice.” So many Robinhood investors exited the site over its decision to block trades in stocks like GameStop that a cash crunch resulted, but the company managed to quickly raise more than $3 billion in emergency funding.
Sunday’s ad carries the tagline, “We are all investors.” In a blog post, Robinhood said its goal with the campaign is “reaching and empowering millions of people.” According to multiple media reports, the company had booked the commercial time in December, ahead of the GameStop situation. CBS has reported a virtual sell-out of ad inventory for Sunday’s game, at a rate of $5.5 million for 30 seconds.
“We built Robinhood for our customers, for the millions of people who have felt left behind by America’s financial system,” the blog post added. “We’re in this for the early morning jogger, the midday study breaker, the late-night nursery rhymer—because we all invest in ourselves every day.”
Tenev, 33, has been under the microscope for his handling of the GameStop situation, but scrutiny of him has been growing in general. The SEC investigated Robinhood in 2020 for its role in providing information for high-frequency trading, which has roiled markets in recent years, with a $65 million fine resulting from the probe. Tenev also apologized and vowed to make improvements to the app after a 20-year-old customer who had run up a negative balance of $730,000 committed suicide.