Messi Signing Brings Early Christmas to Rwanda (and other Sponsors)
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
PSG Sponsors Win Big With Messi Move, but Neymar Signing Had More Marketing Value
By Idy Uyoe
Sometimes in sport marketing, the ball just bounces your way, so to speak, you're given the gift of the unexpected. While the arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris on Tuesday seemed a bit Messianic, (used respectfully), mana did seem to fall at the perfect time for partners of the French Ligue 1 champions, Paris St. Germain, PSG. Case in point. When the Rwanda Development Board, RDB, signed its partnership with PSG in 2019 with their “Visit Rwanda” campaign (the same as they have with Arsenal in the EPL), they could not have possibly imagined Lionel Messi landing with the club less than two years later. But that's what has now happened. This is a MASSIVE win for the RDB in every way possible, as well as the club's other product partners. To contextualize the Messi move to Paris, three things immediately come to mind.
First, Messi brings to PSG, over 247 million followers on Instagram and another 103 million from Facebook alone. And while he does not have an active Twitter account, he really doesn't need one given the concentrated currency of his brand as is. Potential partners simply cannot ignore these kinds of numbers, nor have they. According to Forbes, Messi was the second highest paid athlete in the world in 2020 (behind Conner McGregor and ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo), raking in an estimated $130 million dollars from salary ($97m) and endorsements ($33 m).
Second, a shift in allegiance means Messi opens new markets for his existing sponsors whose primary targets may have previously been associated with Argentina, Barcelona, Catalonia the region or Spain the country. This includes sponsors like the RDB reaching new target audiences via impressions, extended media exposure and activation. In fact, I can see that their marketing people have wasted no time in putting out new material already featuring Messi.
But things are not perfect by any means. This brings me to my third observation. It is worth noting that while the value of PSG itself will inevitably grow in (10-20% range according to Bloomberg), the signing of Messi will not have the same financial impact as the signing of Neymar. This is in part because Neymar was signed just before the shirt sponsorship deal was renegotiated, and those deals don’t expire until 2032. A shirt / kit deal is usually the most valuable marketing asset for any football club, and with no sponsorship inventory in either category for at least a decade, it greatly diminishes the revenue impact of a big signing like this one for the club.
Adding to the financial hit to PSG, is the controversy with the media rights deal for Ligue 1 matches, which until recently, was tied down in litigation in French courts. The results of those recent rulings has seen media partners like Amazon, for example, being able to stream a plethora of Ligue 1 matches at a significantly reduced, fraction of the cost, which in turn, undervalues the media rights package of the league. This was even BEFORE Messi arrived. The negative impact of leaving money on the table will affect every club in the French first division based on the league's revenue sharing model.
It's fair to say a story is big when it pushes the Olympics off the stage, but this just did. No sooner had the Games ended, the magnitude of the Messi signing was the lead story of main stream news beyond a sports by line. Its impact is far ranging and touches just about every sphere of the sport segment - commercial, finance, media, big oil interest, and a heavy hint of politics. But aside from Lionel Messi himself, the biggest winners in this deal are the brands who had the vision, foresight, and yes, undeniable luck, to engage with PSG “BM,” as in "Before Messi."
Though it’s hard to know if on field results will match commercial expectations, it's fair to say there are several winners already. And when considering its existing partnership with Arsenal, and the exponential exposure brought by Messi to the "Visit Rwanda" campaign, it's not a stretch to conclude that Christmas came early in Rwanda, and for the marketing team at the Rwanda Development Board. As I said earlier, sometimes, the ball just bounces your way.
- Written and Edited by Idy Uyoe