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Some sports stars and musicians need only one name. Neymar, Ronaldo, Serena, Madonna, Prince. It goes without saying that their reputations precede them, making them highly recognizable.

Denilson is one of those legends.

And Denilson just signed a celebrity sponsorship deal with 888poker.

Who is Denilson?

If you must ask, his full name is Denilson de Oliveira, a proud Brazilian who is now a retired footballer.

For 16 years, Denilson played professional football (soccer for the Americans) with teams like Sao Paulo and Real Betis. He played for several other countries throughout his career, but he played on the Brazil National team from 1996 to 2003. His primary sponsor during many of those years was Nike. And in 2002, he won the FIFA World Cup.

He started as a professional player at the young age of 17 and ultimately retired in 2010 as injuries got the best of him. Denilson then became a sports commentator on a Brazilian television network.

Now, at the age of 38, he is interested in learning more about poker.

888poker Scores Big Points

There are several professional poker players on the 888poker roster. Dominik Nitsche and Sofia Lovgren are two of the most well-known among them, and Kara Scott was the latest to sign last month as a poker ambassador.

In Brazil, however, 888poker sponsors pro players Nicolau Villa-Lobos, Bruno Politano, and Bruno Kawauti. They will undoubtedly spend time with Denilson to help improve his game and prepare him for any upcoming poker tournaments.

The Denilson signing is unique to 888poker, as he is the first non-professional ambassador signed to the site since Shane Warne of cricket fame. 888poker also signed Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez in 2014, but it was a very short-lived deal due to controversy surrounding Suarez biting another player at the World Cup.

But the celebrity sponsorship deed has been done many times before by PokerStars, which has long been signing deals with professional sports stars. Currently, PokerStars has deals with several of them: Field hockey player Fatima Moreira de Melo from Holland, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, and Brazilian footballers Neymar Jr and Ronaldo.

Such sponsorships can be beneficial to the online poker site if the celebrities are marketed properly, both on and off the felt. When combined with a stellar marketing strategy, images and experiences involving Denilson having fun at the poker tables, at tournaments, and playing online poker at 888poker can have tremendous positive effects for the site.

Vamo, Brazil!

Over the past decade, Brazil has become a hotspot for the game of poker. Players like Andre Akkari and the aforementioned 888-sponsored Brazilian pros have elevated the game of poker to the level of a sport, garnering respect and honor for the game. The Brazilian Ministry of Sports recognizes poker as a mind game, and the current government of the country is attempting to formally legalize land-based casinos and regulated online poker.

More live poker tours are not only hosting tournaments in Brazil, but some are even establishing entire poker tours in that country alone. After Brazil was singled out as one of the countries with the fastest growing poker interest in the world in the late 2000s, interest from players and poker companies alike has continued to increase.

As for Denilson, he seemed pleased to be at the center of it all with his new 888poker sponsorship. At the press conference announcing the deal, he noted that the game is not completely new to him, as he has played with friends.

“Many of the qualities you need to be a successful footballer can help you improve your poker game,” he noted. “888poker is one of the biggest and best poker platforms in the world, so I am very proud to join the 888poker team. I hope it will help develop my own poker skills as well as encourage new players to get involved in this exciting game.”

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.