Samsung Pits Soccer Star Messi Against Aliens in Battle for Earth

First in Series of Ads for Galaxy Products Anoints Team Captain

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Samsung announced Monday it has tapped global soccer star Lionel Messi to serve as "captain" of its Galaxy 11 ad campaign.

Samsung showed off images of the Argentine footballer in a spacesuit on Facebook and other social media channels on Monday. The technology giant also debuted a cinematic, 60-second video on YouTube showing the FC Barcelona star dribbling, dodging and leaping his way past a mysterious group of pursuers.

They finally corner him, and former soccer superstar turned Galaxy 11 "team manager" Franz Beckenbauer offers Mr. Messi a Captain's "C" to lead the Earth in a winner-take-all match on a virtual pitch against the denizens of a giant alien spaceship hovering overhead.

Ad agencies R/GA in San Francisco and Cheil Worldwide in Korea created the global ad campaign. Over coming weeks, Samsung will reveal the ten other soccer stars joining Mr. Messi via a microsite and Samsung Mobile social-media channels. The campaign, said Samsung, will follow the 11 players as they "come together and attempt to save Earth from alien domination" with the help of various Galaxy products.

Samsung has club sponsorship deals with some of the world's biggest soccer clubs, such as Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich FC. So look for some of Messi's fellow Galaxy endorsers to come from those clubs.

Samsung "wants to combine fans' universal love for football and Galaxy devices," said Younghee Lee, exec VP-Global Marketing, IT & Mobile Division at Samsung Electronics.

Monday's reveal of Mr. Messi capped off a weeks-long teaser campaign called #WinnerTakesEarth, which involved placing alien-like symbols and cryptic messages at soccer games in the U.S, Brazil, England, Italy and Germany and landmarks such as Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Samsung even trotted out actors dressed as mysterious robed figures to stoke interest in the campaign.

The 26-year old striker has appeared previously in ad campaigns for Samsung. With combined annual earnings of $41 million, Mr. Messi ranked as the world's 10th highest-paid athlete in Forbes' 2013 rankings. He trailed fellow global soccer stars David Beckham ($47 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($44 million), who ranked 8th and 9th respectively. But he was ahead of NFL star Tom Brady of the New England Patriots who came in 11th ($38 million). Golfer Tiger Woods ranked No. 1 at $78 million.

In the real world, Mr. Messi is sidelined for the rest of 2013 after injuring his leg during Barcelona's 4-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday. It was his third leg injury this season. He's expected to be out of action until January.

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