Photographer: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Five Baffling Celebrity Bitcoin Endorsements

Mike Tyson and Richard Branson are among the stars lending their names to promote the digital currency

Bitcoin believers have grand ambitions for the digital currency to create a world-changing, superfast way of transferring money. But some Bitcoin startups are resorting to an attention-getting technique more commonly associated with Diet Pepsi and DKNY perfume. Several companies are using celebrities to promote their Bitcoin services.

Whether celebrity endorsements actually work is a subject of some debate, but a study by two researchers at the University of Delhi shows that they can positively affect purchasing behavior. Bitcoin could use the help. The digital commodity is trading at $230, down about 50 percent from a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Companies hope these big names can add some punch to Bitcoin.

Mike Tyson

The former boxer has lent his name to a line of Bitcoin cash machines. The Mike Tyson Bitcoin ATM will let people purchase Bitcoin using their mobile devices, according to Bitcoin Direct, which operates the machines. The company says it will turn on the first machine in Las Vegas on Sept. 24. “Mike Tyson’s fastest knockout in the ring was 30 seconds,” Bitcoin Direct writes in an ad. “The Mike Tyson Bitcoin ATM can turn your cash into bitcoin in under 20 seconds.”

Nas

Nas performs on Aug. 1, in Montreal, Canada.
Nas performs on Aug. 1, in Montreal, Canada.
Photographer: Mark Horton/WireImage

The rapper asked fans last year to participate in an online contest called the Nas Rap Test. Coinbase, a Bitcoin startup that claims Nas as an investor, promised to give 100 winners Bitcoin for their hip-hop knowledge.

Richard Branson

In May, the Virgin Group billionaire co-founder held the four-day Block Chain Summit on his private island in the British Virgin Islands. Attendees who traveled to Necker Island for the conference not only discussed Bitcoin but also kite-surfed, played pool, and “shaped serendipity,” as Branson explained in a blog post.

Ashton Kutcher

The actor and longtime startup investor, who’s a backer of BitPay, responded to a question on Quora suggesting that people should put their money into Bitcoin. In 2013, Kutcher promoted Bitcoin at another event, TechCrunch Disrupt.

Richard Sherman

Last year, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback announced on his Facebook page that fans could buy merchandise from his online store using Bitcoin. BitPay, which the store uses to process payments, also promoted the news on its Twitter account. The outspoken athlete called it “the currency of the future,” which is one celebrity endorsement the Bitcoin faithful might actually agree with.

Update, 2:07 p.m.: The story has been updated to include details about the debut of the Mike Tyson Bitcoin ATM in Las Vegas.

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