After Lionel Messi's shock transfer from his beloved Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, Amar Singh, senior brand manager at Budweiser UK, gives a first-hand account of the Argentine magician's ability to do the business off the pitch as well as on it.
It only took seven days to rock football.
On Wednesday, August 4 2021, Lionel Messi – the world’s greatest player – was all set to sign a new contract for FC Barcelona, extending the most successful club career in the history of the game and potentially taking the 34 year-old into retirement.
A week later, the Argentine was being unveiled at a press conference in Paris alongside Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), one of football’s emerging new powers.
Messi joins a star-studded squad that includes French prodigy Kylian Mbappe, Brazilian-icon Neymar in addition to ex-Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.
Not just a team of exceptional footballers – a collection of cultural icons – have assembled in the City of Lights with Messi, the dazzling diamond at the centre of it.
It’s the stuff of dreams for sports marketeers and for us at Budweiser, Messi has been the dream ambassador.
Since we launched our partnership with Messi just under a year ago, he has been the gift that keeps on giving.
Few footballers offer a guaranteed return on the pitch, particular at this stage in their career, but Messi certainly does that.
Last season, according football data specialists Squawka, Messi scored a goal for Barca every 110 minutes and scored or assisted a goal every 84 minutes.
This relentlessly high standard ensures that Messi is always at the centre of the football conversation.
It means he is the holder of multiple records including most Ballon d’Ors (6), most consecutive season scoring 40+ goals (10) and last year he achieved a special record that may never be surpassed in our lifetimes.
In December, Messi became the first ever footballer to score 644 goals for one club, surpassing a record set by Pele, which had stood for 46 years.
At Budweiser, we celebrated the moment by sending 644 customised Budweiser bottles out to all the goalkeepers he had beat in achieving that record, with dozens of them choosing to join the celebration and toasting their Argentine nemesis on social media with a Bud.
It gave us weeks of earned content as the world’s top keepers joined the celebration and a prestigious Silver Cannes Lion.
Subsequently, as we have begun emerging out of the pandemic, Budweiser shifted our focus towards the aspirations and euphoria felt by consumers and how we can inspire fans to share their dreams by shining a light on the aspirational stories of the Kings of the game.
This bore fruit when Messi ended his wait for a first major international title when he lifted the Copa America in July, earning the Player of the Tournament accolade for good measure and ending a few GOAT debates in the process.
But it’s not just his mind-boggling on-the-pitch achievements that draw us to Messi.
For a company that is all about bringing people together through the simple act of sharing a beer with a friend, Messi’s many friendships and the connections he has fostered inspired us to release If It Wasn’t For Leo.
Captured beautifully by our partners at Copa90, the film pays tribute to Messi’s legacy during his 21 years at Barca and the impact it has had on teammates, fans and the Catalonians.
PSG, a club which dreams of winning the UEFA Champions League and reaching the status of Real Madrid, Manchester United and FC Barcelona, are already reaping the benefits of “Messinomics”.
Yes, sales of ‘Messi30’ shirts at PSG’s flagship store on the Champs-Élysées are more likely to directly benefit Nike (and shareholder Michael Jordan) than ‘repay’ Messi’s contract as some would have you believe.
But, the ripples from his move will reach all corners of the globe – including Asia, where football fandom is exploding.
According to digital agency Red Lantern, Messi’s signing has already taken PSG’s followers on Douyin (TikTok in China) from 1.5 million followers to 2 million followers in the 48 hours after his signing.
At the same time at least 300,000 Chinese Douyin users unfollowed Barca.
While in India, Ligue 1 rights are set for renewed interest from the likes of Star Sports and Sony Entertainment with broadcaster TV5 only offering limited coverage as demand surges to watch every PSG game in the early hours from his legions of Indian devotees.
Much has been made of Qatar’s geopolitical ambitions and there is no question that adding football’s leading light to the roster of their club gives the tiny Emirati nation – host of the 2022 World Cup – another compelling asset on the world stage.
Messi’s stunning move makes PSG a formidable outfit and, if a coveted Champions League follows, people will be talking about a power shift in the game.
Few individuals can turn football on its head in less than week and the true value of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain will be felt on and off the pitch for years to come.