The time-tested method of using celebrity promotions has not gone unnoticed by advertisers and PR specialists from the booming cryptocurrency industry, as recent years saw multiple high-profile athletes, entertainers, and actors being recruited by various crypto-companies to hype up their products and services. Yet, regardless of how appealing and sincere endorsements from celebrity idols may look like, it is worth reminding all aspiring crypto-investors to exercise caution, as stars do not always have the best interests of their fans in mind, whether they’re promoting a hair gel or an ICO.
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has promoted an Israeli company Sirin Labs and has become their global brand ambassador in 2017. Sirin Labs is the developer of the blockchain smartphone with a built-in cold wallet. On his Instagram, Messi claimed to be highly excited about blockchain technology, which, no doubt, has not gone unnoticed by his numerous fans and followers.
Messi was not the only football star to get involved in the cryptocurrency business. Messi’s former fellow Barcelona team member, and current Atlético Madrid striker Luis Suarez has urged his followers to join him in making predictions on sporting events on the Ethereum-based prediction platform Stox.
In 2015 the former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson promoted Bitcoin ATM. The three ATMs, all of which were placed in Tyson’s home city of Las Vegas, were operated by Bitcoin Direct, a subsidiary of Conexus Corporation. The Tyson-branded ATMs promised to provide instant Bitcoin-to-cash services available to the general public.
Similar to star athletes, musicians were also quick to join the crypto crowd. US rapper The Game, who owns a marihuana dispensary in Oregon, recognized blockchain’s potential to revolutionize the cannabis industry. The Game joined the advisory board of the tech company Paragon, which aimed to provide decentralized solutions for both cannabis businesses and consumers, as well as external investors. However, as of 2020 Paragon announced that it was forced to close the project, as it failed to overcome numerous legal hurdles.
Despite the absence of his confirmed investments in crypto, rapper Kanye West has also contributed to attracting popular attention to blockchain technologies. During a 2018 interview, Kanye remarked about his willingness to use cryptocurrencies and encouraged everyone to look forward to the future. Following the interview, Kayne, in his signature style, tweeted ‘decentralize,’ which has been taken by crypto-enthusiasts to refer to the blockchain.
Pop icon Madonna, who had long since established herself as a philanthropist, endorsed cryptocurrencies as a secure payment method during her fundraising campaign for the Raising Malawi foundation. To organize the online fundraising, Madonna joined efforts with Facebook and the cryptocurrency platform Ripple.
Johnny Depp, who remains one of the most recognized contemporary actors, has active stakes in the crypto business. In 2018 Depp became a partner in the crypto startup TaTaTu, a cryptocurrency platform that allows users to receive tokens as rewards for interacting with entertainment content such as movies or games.
Although, prospective crypto-investors should be cautious about celebrity endorsements of ICOs. Over the years dishonest entrepreneurs frequently used famous people as a way to promote and hype up ICOs and crypto startups, a lot of which have later been revealed to be scams.
Back in 2017 world-famous boxer and multimillionaire Floyd Mayweather had been engaged in promoting the ICO of the cryptocurrency company Centra Tech. In a promotional post, Mayweather went as far as asking fans to call him “Floyd Crypto Mayweather” and urged his followers to get a hold of Centra tokens as fast as possible. Mayweather also claimed that Centra had made licensing agreements with Visa, Mastercard, and Bancorp.
However, this had turned out to be false. Moreover, soon after the initial endorsement the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged the founders of Centra, who had raised $25 million during the ICO, with fraud. Mayweather together with hip-hop artist DJ Khalid, who had also endorsed Centra’s ICO, were fined $767,500 in total.
Tech entrepreneur John McAfee, most famous for creating the McAfee anti-virus software and his rock’n’roll lifestyle, has actively promoted various ICOs, for which he has received financial compensation. Additionally, on his own accord, McAfee famously made farfetched predictions about the value of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, reaching $1,000,000 by 2020 to attract new users to the blockchain field.
However, it was revealed that McAfee lied about being an investor in some of the ICOs he promoted. It has turned out that Mcafee had been receiving tens of millions of dollars for the promotions which were found out to be scams.
In the end, while it may give a sense of security to see your favorite stars promoting a product, you have to remember that this is often used as a marketing stunt. It is important to keep a clear head and to do your own research before making decisions.
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Not Yet the Moon but Stars: Celebrities Promoting Cryptocurrencies was originally published in The Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.