Khaby Lame is quite literally on top of the world (if TikTok follower counts are the world). After attending his first VidCon and surpassing Charli D’Amelio as the most-followed TikToker, the Italian Senegalese comedian signed on as an ambassador for Binance, the world’s largest platform for buying and selling cryptocurrencies. Just last week, Binance snagged a partnership with soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to “change the NFT game.”
These high-profile partnerships come at a troubling time for crypto. In May, the popular cryptocurrency TerraUSD collapsed, meaning that anyone who had invested in the coin lost all of the money they put in. Then, in the face of a macroeconomic downturn, crypto companies like Coinbase, Crypto.com, BlockFi and Gemini have conducted layoffs, and the prices of top cryptocurrencies have dropped as much as 35% week over week. Basically, anyone who has invested in cryptocurrency is feeling a bit nervous right now, unless they’re so bullish that they’re unfazed by Bitcoin reaching a price of over $60,000 in November, then dropping to around $20,000 today. So it could be a bad look for creators to turn around and encourage their followers to check out Binance.
That hasn’t stopped Khaby Lame, though. Today, he posted a video to his followers — 145 million on TikTok and 78 million on Instagram — in which he appears as a Binance-branded superhero, saving the day as a friend types “WTF is web3???” on “Boogle.”
Lame rose to internet stardom for his videos where he spoofs over-complicated life hacks and makes them simple. Without speaking, he flips open his hands as if to say, “Look, I fixed it.” Binance said in a press release that Lame will apply this TikTok format to videos about web3, trying to simplify complex concepts for his followers. That may be hard for him to accomplish in his videos, though, since he rarely speaks.
In a statement, Lame said, “I consider my followers as my family, and I am always looking for new challenges and interesting content to share with them. I’ve been curious about Web3 for some time, and jumped at the chance to partner with a leader like Binance because it aligns perfectly with what I usually do: make complex stuff easy and fun for everyone!”
Lame has also weighed in on emerging (and potentially fleeting) technology by partnering with Meta to advertise the metaverse — he appeared in a video on the tech giant’s corporate accounts alongside Mark Zuckerberg.
As brand ambassadors, both Khaby Lame and Cristiano Ronaldo will make NFTs, which their fans can buy and trade.
Some companies like Pearpop — backed by The Chainsmokers, Alexis Ohanian, Mark Cuban and Snoop Dogg — think that web3 can power the future of the creator economy. But some veterans of the industry think that the space is too volatile to trust right now.
“I am very bearish on NFTs personally,” longtime YouTuber Hank Green said on stage at VidCon last week — but he joked that he could be wrong, since he thought YouTube would never support HD video. He later added, “I don’t want to sell someone something that might not be valuable.”
Fans’ trust in a creator can change drastically depending on the reputation of the brands they promote, but brand deals are virtually unavoidable for a creator looking to make reliable income. Especially on TikTok, where creator fund payouts are shrinking, creators aren’t being paid enough from the platform alone. With ambassadors like Lame and Ronaldo, Binance must be shelling out some serious cash, but for these stars, that payment comes at the cost of potential pushback and outrage down the road.