Messi, Ronaldinho Pump Little-Known Solana Meme Coin: What’s the Deal?

Soccer icons Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho both posted advertisements for Solana meme coin WATER on their respective Instagram stories this week, causing the token to skyrocket 194% to a market cap of $65 million in just over 24 hours.

With over 580 million Instagram followers between them, the athlete’s promotion of a relatively small Solana meme coin certainly turned heads—and confused even crypto advocates in the process. So what’s the deal with WATER?

Unlike celebrity meme coins of the past, they didn’t promote a new token associated with their identity, such as Iggy Azalea’s MOTHER or the Andrew Tate-backed Daddy Tate meme coin. And there’s no suspicion in this case that their accounts were hacked or compromised.

Messi’s Instagram Stories post, shared Monday, stayed up for the full 24 hours as he continued to post professional content associated with the Copa America—the tournament he’s currently playing in. And then retired Brazilian star Ronaldinho posted a similar promotion Tuesday.

We have seen celebrity social media accounts hacked in recent weeks to promote meme coins, typically through pump-and-dump scams: The hacked account draws in fans to buy the tokens, the value rises, and then the coin creator sells—typically tanking the price in the process.

But unlike with Metallica, 50 Cent, Hulk Hogan, and more recently Doja Cat, the social posts weren’t frantically deleted, which means there’s no immediate signs of foul play in these cases.

Furthermore, both Messi and Ronaldinho have made moves in the crypto world before now. Messi, for example, is a brand ambassador for fan token platform Socios and NFT fantasy soccer game Sorare, while Ronaldinho recently backed a project called Lingo. In 2023, Ronaldinho denied any connection to a crypto pyramid scheme that traded on his name and image.

Both Messi and Ronaldinho have the same booking agency, which declined to comment to Decrypt when reached. Decrypt then contacted the athlete’s respective managers, but did not immediately receive a response from either. Furthermore, Decrypt reached out to the Water team through multiple avenues, but did not receive an immediate response.

What is WATER?

Water launched June 24, after a presale that took place a few days prior. This launch came in tandem with a “collaboration” with the BEER meme coin, using the same art style. In turn, the project promised holders of over 1 million BEER tokens that they would receive an airdrop of WATER tokens once it launched.

That might suggest that the projects are created by the same team, which is supported by the use of similar art styles and website designs, though there’s no concrete evidence that they emerged from the same source.

On the Water coin website, the project is branded as a “charity token,” but the details are vague. The website mentions a “publicly known” charity wallet that users can donate funds to, but does not list the address. It also claims that each week, 25% of tokens sent to the “burn contract” will be routed to unspecified charities instead.

On the roadmap, the meme coin promises a future NFT collection, sustainable projects that prevent deforestation as well as help water distribution, and rewards for holders of the WATER token. These prizes include a Maldives getaway, a world cruise, and a giveaway of a private yacht (but only a mid-sized one).

Meanwhile, Beer is down 94% from its all-time high price achieved on June 10, according to CoinGecko. A large amount of BEER was sold on June 13, causing its price to drop 70% and sowing distrust within some traders.

“Team/insiders controlled [over] 50% of supply,” pseudonymous on-chain sleuth WazzCrypto posted on Twitter, highlighting 13 wallets that cashed out a total of $15 million over a period of a few days. “One of the biggest and more elaborate meme scams I’ve seen so far,” he added.

But market making hedge fund Gotbit, a company that worked on the launch of BEER, claims that the dump was a “coordinated attack” by a group of whales.

As for Water, according to tweets from on-chain visualizer Bubblemaps, 30% of the supply is allegedly controlled by insiders. “Send it to zero,” Bubblemaps wrote.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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