After a tearful goodbye to Barcelona, Lionel Messi was all smiles as he signed a $41 million-a-year deal with the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, putting aside his old playmaker’s number and assuming a new identity as the club’s No. 30.
It has been estimated that as Barcelona’s No. 10, Messi was responsible for generating a third of Barcelona’s direct and indirect revenues. His effect on PSG’s revenues is expected to be “shocking,” according to the team’s president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Tuesday night after Messi’s new contract was announced, PSG put 150,000 No. 30 Messi shirts on sale; they sold out in 10 minutes.
The early frenzy recalls the former Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus transfer in 2018. “When Ronaldo went to Juve, he sold 520,000 shirts in the first 24 hours,” Dave Wakeman, a strategy consultant, said in a phone interview. “They made almost $7 million. But that was not going to cover the $100 million transfer fee and his $36 million-a-year salary.”
Dan Gaunt, the general manager of a U.K.-based sports sponsorship valuation agency Turnstile, estimated Ronaldo helped increase Juventus’ fanbase by 18%. “So, what we believe is, when we look at the difference in number, difference in size, the fan base of Messi vs. Ronaldo, we think that Messi would have a bigger effect on that,” Gaunt said. “We think it would push [the fan base] up by 20.4%.”
Turnstile measures player impact in three ways: sponsorship value, exposure value and intellectual property value. “We believe that that intellectual property value is essentially tied to the size of the fan base: The more fans that support a particular club, they have more positive consumer sentiment towards that club,” Gaunt said. “And therefore, the ability for a brand like Qatar National Bank to use the PSG trademarks and logos and so on to associate with themselves and that, or indirectly with the likes of Messi is very, very powerful.”
This applies to more established sponsors as well. According to Wakeman, PSG’s kit sponsors, Nike and Jordan Brand, have taken the PSG brand into luxury, high-end fashion. Adding Messi to that will probably help with Nike’s crossover opportunity. The $94 million (€80 million) annual deal was renewed in January.
Success on the field isn’t guaranteed, said Tim Crow, a U.K.-based independent sports and esports business adviser. He cited the example of Real Madrid, which failed to win a major trophy for three seasons after adding David Beckham in 2003 to an already star-studded lineup that included Zinedane Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos.
“Real Madrid pursued the los Galacticos strategy,” Crow said. “And it didn’t work. However, it was very successful in marketing terms.”