Why the Messi signing makes David Beckham’s Inter Miami a blockbuster brand
With football superstar Lionel Messi landing in Miami, the Argentine soccer star is helping grow David Beckham’s team into a cultural powerhouse, says James Kirkham, founder of Iconic.
David Beckham’s team into a cultural powerhouse, says James Kirkham, founder of Iconic
David Beckham’s Inter Miami team is now the center of attention in soccer, receiving accolades usually reserved for Hollywood. Messi’s arrival is the latest blockbuster fresh off the franchise. Rest assured, this is not only or entirely about football, though. Instead, it is a savvy athlete-led entertainment program, dripping with brand partnership and merchandise opportunities.
There is an incredible and thriving entertainment business at the heart of US football right now. It is comparable to familiar, well-endowed verticals like TV, video gaming, and the music business, and has an enticing lavish flavor that feels befitting of the home of Hollywood.
Messi’s own primetime show started without needing a teaser or even a trailer. In fact, long before he sets foot on any pitch, this new must-watch series has already exploded through our screens and into the public consciousness. His signing with Inter Miami immediately brought with it 262,500 Instagram followers per hour to the team account, just over two million in one day. We’re in a post-influencer era where talent exists not because of social media, but because social media is driven by the truly talented. The numbers are mere proof of his film star draw.
Paradoxically, for such scale, glitz and glamour, Inter Miami is a relatively small space to ply your trade. The home stadium currently holds just 18,000 people. For context, this is similar to League 2 teams in the UK, like Brunton Park in Carlisle. It’s less than double Wrexham’s humble Racecourse Ground, another soccer entertainment franchise.
Stadiums like Miami’s are more than green grass and perimeter boards edging the pitch. This is akin to a blank canvas that can house virtually anything and everything, a springboard into far deeper cultural spaces.
When Beckham and his investors got involved in Miami, they were not simply planning a game strategy, but one of wider entertainment, culture, and influence. It stems from the experience of top players leaning into their later years on the pitch, but even they are merely the moving parts and temporary vehicles to capture the attention of audiences worldwide. They are bit-part actors in a much wider plot, housed in a perpetual storyline as engaging as anything from the studios’ output of Disney or Marvel.
The old economics of ticket sales and stadium size have little bearing on the true lifeblood of new entities that are set on a completely different trajectory from where football clubs started. Inter Miami is just that, an entertainment goliath, a beating heart of music, fashion, style, and culture well-suited to the glamorous heat of Miami and perfectly set in the image and guise of brand Beckham.
Beckham’s sense of worth and leveraging of culture is hardly new news. But the scale of his innate business acumen here should warrant attention. From the day he signed for LA Galaxy, he’s reported to have earned a quarter of a billion dollars in just five years. His presence grew the brand Beckham in the US and was part of an alliance of former Galacticos who were fundamental to the league’s development.
This arguably peaked the moment Zlatan Ibrahimovic got off a plane and scored one of the greatest goals, an unbelievably fairytale moment that circled the world at the speed of a meme. Nobody could ignore MLS again. So, Inter Miami arrived and set up as this new canvas for connected fan culture, an entertainment hub for all that fandom is right now.
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It draws inspiration from all those passions that intersect the beautiful game, comparable to the paddock at Monaco in F1, the social-celebrity spotting of the Met Gala, and the commercial brand ambitions of the Super Bowl. It’s all glossily rolled up and packaged for a worldwide audience.
Now, watching Lionel Messi enter this arena is like watching a branded entertainment hub mint their own money.
His incredible following will boost business in a host of different ways. The move notably comes just as it was announced that a docuseries charting Messi’s magical World Cup performances are due out on Apple+. Such killer content creation will roll from here, and doubtless many more brand endorsements too. This is music meeting fashion, crossing over with style and fused into sports, set to the tune of hits. And hits mean dollars.
And for Inter themselves, the current on-pitch success is borderline irrelevant. It barely matters about team performance or league results. Parting ways with their manager (and childhood friend, fellow United academy graduate) Phil Neville, the team sits plum at the bottom of the Eastern conference. But does anyone really care? This is entertainment after all. It’s not quite in the arena of show games, but as they attract more star-studded names, it will generate most of its income with a ‘beyond football’ philosophy. The sport is the window to what’s next.
You might wonder what these non-American players are doing in this space, but the turnaround is fair play. LeBron James, Michael B Jordan and Ryan Reynolds, along with their advisors and investors, can all see the promotional power of the beautiful game.
Beckham purchased Inter Miami for $25m, but this club is now valued at $600m. It sits astride passions and cultural touchpoints, driven by football but barely recognizable from where the game started.
This year’s summer blockbuster is here; you just didn’t realize you’d already started watching it.