Lionel Messi's decision to bolt Football Club Barcelona for Paris-Saint-Germain has rocked the sports and media world. How the move affects his play on the field remains to be seen, but the switch seems poised to boost his already astronomical draw as a brand endorser.
Messi’s power as a marketer puts him in rarified air occupied by sports giants such as LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo—and it will only go up after this news, partly because of the attention it is getting. His four-year contract with FC Barcelona that ended in June was reportedly worth $672 million. Forbes ranks him as the second highest paid athlete for 2021 at $130 million, including $33 million in off-field earnings, putting him behind only mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor. He is set to sign with Paris-Saint-Germain in a two-year deal valued at 35 million euros ($41 million) net annually, according to the Associated Press.
Messi is in a good position to lure even more mega-endorsement deals as the team switch puts a new spotlight on him, predicts Rakesh Dhall, partnerships director at London-based creative agency 20ten and a former player with Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur’s Academy under 19s team. He argues that Messi had to make the move to boost his long-term legacy, likening it to Ronaldo winning with various European clubs in England, Spain, and now Italy. Messi has to do the same "to be truly considered as the world’s best," Dhall says, adding that "Messi is arguably the world’s best-ever; he is treated like an icon, God-like figure and has re-invented football culture across the world for decades.”
Carl Driesener, senior marketing scientist at the Australian Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, points to Messi’s 240 million Instagram-follower army as an indication of the reach he gives sponsors. But Diesener says a lot hinges on how much winning Messi is able to do with his new club.