Rakuten, Inc. (TSE: 4755), parent company of Rakuten Securities, one of the largest foreign exchange (FX) brokers in Japan, has signed a huge new sponsorship deal to be the official partner of the La Liga champions FC Barcelona, covering the 2017-18 to 2020-21 seasons.
The four-year agreement, with an option of a one-year extension, will see the Japanese firm replace Qatar Airways, who have been in place since 2011 and are expected to stay on as the club’s official airline partner. The deal grants Rakuten marketing and promotional rights to use Barca’s brand and players from next season, with its name appearing on match-day jerseys.
The mega deal was signed for four seasons with an option to extend to a fifth, representing a value of EUR 55 million ($58.82 million) per season. Tokyo-based Rakuten is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and one of the top five overall e-commerce companies in the world by sales.
The announcement comes as the Spanish giant – once renowned for never having had a sponsor on its shirts – has been locked in negotiations for a new shirt sponsor after ending its latest advertising agreement with Qatar Airways.
The expired deal was estimated at roughly €30 million ($32 million) per year, at that time the most lucrative shirt sponsorship in football.
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€220 million shirt sponsor
The agreement was announced in a ceremony held at Auditorium 1899 in the presence of the executives of the Catalan club and the Japanese company, including Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, and Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. According to the deal terms, the Japanese giant will be serving as FC Barcelona’s Main Global Partner and its first-ever Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner. The Rakuten logo will appear on the front of the first team’s jersey for the next four seasons, beginning in 2017/18.
Hiroshi Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten, commented on the deal: “As FC Barcelona’s Main Global Partner, Rakuten is set to power our global brand strategy and, as FCB’s first-ever Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner, we are looking to bring the collective power of our brands like Viber, Wuaki, Ebates, Kobo and PriceMinister to build an innovation framework that will deliver innovative solutions and services to fans, members and players.”
He added: “I am very excited about joining the Barça community as I have personally followed the team for decades and have long admired their unique playing style and professionalism, their commitment to success and their culture of nurturing young talent – all values we share at Rakuten.”
Josep Maria Bartomeu, President of FC Barcelona, said: “We are delighted with our agreement with Rakuten, a global brand in innovation whose experience and know-how in the fields of big data, communications and e-commerce will contribute to the future success of FC Barcelona.”
“This agreement puts us at the forefront of sports club sponsorships, which have 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.”