Cristiano Ronaldo, one of football's biggest names, has signed a lucrative sponsorship contract with cryptocurrency exchange Binance, becoming the latest superstar to do so despite the sector's current turmoil.
Ronaldo's crypto transaction comes at a time when the price of Bitcoin has dropped more than 70 percent from its autumn peak, wiping away five years of investor gains.
The sell-off has produced a crisis for some of the major traders and lenders in the digital asset business, leading predictions of a "Lehman moment" for the industry.
The renowned Portuguese footballer, whose career spanned Manchester United, Juventus, and Real Madrid, will collaborate with Binance to create a collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) sold exclusively through the exchange.
Ronaldo said: "My relationship with the fans is really essential to me. Therefore, I want to be a part of this NFT platform's mission to provide access to unparalleled experiences and opportunities."
During the recent crypto boom, digital asset businesses have become some of the largest sponsors of sports athletes and franchises, with multimillion-dollar deals such as Crypto.com's $700 million renaming of Los Angeles' primary arena and celebrity TV advertising during the Super Bowl.
Despite spending millions to recruit new investors, crypto prices have continued to fall from their peaks. Bettors who purchased Bitcoin after the Super Bowl in February would have suffered a 50% loss.
The decrease in pricing and sluggish trading activity has impacted the revenues of cryptocurrency exchanges.
Coinbase, Gemini, and Crypto.com, among others, have announced layoffs in recent weeks. However, Binance has stated that it is financially sound and is proceeding with a hiring drive and further high-profile agreements.
"Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best footballers in the world and has transcended sport to become a superstar in numerous industries," said Changpeng Zhao, chief executive officer of Binance.
Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina, Ronaldo's greatest rival, became a global brand ambassador for crypto fan token business Socios in March.
The promotion of digital assets by prominent athletes has prompted a backlash from financial regulators in multiple nations. Last November, Binance was embroiled in a social media-related dispute with Spain's National Securities Market Commission and football player Andrés Iniesta.
In May, the Financial Conduct Authority of the United Kingdom cautioned customers about the hazards of investing in crypto assets, only days after retired footballer Michael Owen promoted NFTs that he claimed "cannot lose their initial worth."