November 17 – The rumour was that it would be a Chinese sponsor but in the end it was Japan’s Rakuten that signed up as FC Barcelona’s new main global partner in a four-year €220 million deal that could rise with bonuses.
The €55 million a year agreement could be worth as much as €61.5 million per season if Barca wins La Liga and the Champions League, a deal that tops Manchester United’s £52 millon-a-season with Chevrolet.
Rakuten, will take over from Qatar Airways for the 2017/19 season and will appear on the front of the team’s shirt and become the Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner.
Rakuten has an option to extend for a fifth season. Qatar Airways were paying €30 million a year and are expected to stay on at the club as a sponsor. The sponsor of the club’s training kits is still to be announced.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, President of FC Barcelona, said: “This agreement puts us at the forefront of sports club sponsorships, which has always been an objective for the current Board of Directors. We hope this partnership between Rakuten and FC Barcelona brings unparalleled sporting and commercial success, and helps the club achieve its goal of being a reference point worldwide.”
Rakuten is a household name in Japan in e-commerce, communications, digital content and FinTech services for consumers and since 2012 has been ranked as one of the world’s Top 20 Most Innovative Companies by Forbes magazine.
In Europe, it is owns Viber, the mobile messaging and calling app; Wuaki, the video-streaming service established in Barcelona and now available in 12 countries; PriceMinister, one of France’s leading e-commerce sites; and Kobo, a global digital e-reader.
Viber will also become FC Barcelona’s Official Communications Channel.
Hiroshi Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten Inc. said: “This partnership opportunity is set to power our global brand strategy and, more importantly, as the Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner, we are looking to bring the collective power of our brands like Viber, Wuaki, Ebates, Kobo, PriceMinister to build a cool innovation framework that will deliver innovative solutions and services to fans, members and players”.
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