“Personal sports branding apply fundamentals from classic branding theory. Consistency is important but given the personal feelings and thoughts of athletes, a personal sports brand is subject to instinct positive or negative changes caused by personal actions. Additionally, in personal sports branding the athlete’s performances on the field are changing over time from the athletic breakthrough, over maturity as a star, and towards the end of the athletic career. Therefore, it is important for athletes to build consistent character sides on top of the capabilities on the sports side. In that sense, athletes themselves have a strong role in helping out when pursuing to build their personal sports brands as brands being profitable long after their active athletic careers.” (Cortsen, 2013, p. 39)
In relation to the citation above, Lionel Messi is an interesting case concerning the concept ‘hybrid sportsbranding’, which part of my research within the business of sports focuses on. This concept deals with the interaction between different brand levels in the brand management process. More specifically, it touches upon how brand rights holders strategically can focus on exploiting this interaction commercially to enhance brand equity levels and thus to gain a better financial bottom line. The interaction is also about exploiting the interrelationship between internal and external processes for the brand rights holder(s). For instance, the Adidas slogan “All In”, which is activated in various campaigns (see video below), symbolizes that Adidas employees, athletes representing Adidas (Messi), and Adidas’ final consumers should strive to act based on the following values: sport is about heart, inclusion and passion to motivate you to go “All In”. So in this activation, strong ‘hybrid sportsbranding’ is present in the sense that it exploits the interactions between Adidas’ historic and cultural heritage united and external brand communications. The interaction also contains the interplay between different Adidas assets related to different brand levels, i.e. Adidas’ corporate brand in relation to strong personal assets like Messi and Beckham and to associations with strong product assets like the football boots these stars are wearing when they play matches or appear in commercials.
This is linked to integrated marketing communications via other campaigns and marketing vehicles. For instance, this is visible when Adidas launches products events where super stars like Messi display new products like the adizeroTM f50 Messi signature boots, which he did for the first time in a UEFA Champions League match. The ‘hybrid’ aspect also shines through in the sense that Adidas thought about Messi’s playing style for what reason they introduced one of the lightest boots on the market. This fits Messi as he is a player who moves around the pitch quickly and is capable of playing in tight spaces. Another example of a ‘hybrid’ sports branding element tied to this context was evident when Adidas introduced the “Lisbon Final” as the official ball for the knock-out stages in the UEFA Champions League tournament, which represents important parts on Portugal’s legacy since the final will be hosted in Lisbon.
This year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil will be a showcase event for big players on the most prestigious stage in sports branding like Lionel Messi and Adidas. For that reason, the collaboration between Adidas and Messi leaves no room for failure to connect with football fans worldwide. Adidas will be extremely active in Brazil as one of the official sponsors of the FIFA tournament and via kit partnerships with strong teams such as Argentina, Germany and Spain while highlighting the skills of super stars like Messi, Özil and Alves. Additionally, the ‘hybrid sportsbranding’ nature will be present when Adidas will boost its social media and online activities. One example of this is Adidas’ new online gaming platform ‘FastOrFail’, see here. It is integrated with social media and that adds the special feature that the more Lionel Messi is talked about online, the faster the game turns out to be and the higher chance challenging players will have of earning a trip to the World Cup in Brazil. This online competition is also linked highly to Messi’s new Adidas boots.
Photos: Adidas’ ‘FastOrFail’ gaming platform (source: Adidas).
Another exciting element of the ‘hybrid’ commercial partnership between Messi and Adidas is that Adidas has opened a ‘Messi Gallery’ in Barcelona, which is an exchange that takes advantage of Messi’s vibrant role in popular culture as part of the Adidas ‘Team Messi’ campaign. The gallery was open to the public for one month in 2013 and portrayed the extraordinary football skills and accolades of Lionel Messi and acted as an introductory event to showcase the adizero Messi boots and his accomplishment of winning four consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Or trophies from 2009 to 2012. The ‘Team Messi’ campaign is a unique movement dedicated to emphasize Messi’s astonishing style of play and to allow football fans to get more insights into the life of their hero Lionel Messi. The brand delivery of the campaign underscored how Messi plays the world’s most popular game applying the ‘Messi Mantra’, a philosophy that stresses the conduct and values characterizing the Argentinian super star.
This post mirrors how Lionel Messi’s personal brand and its relative strong level of consistency adds value to Adidas and vice versa. The strong marketing vehicle of Adidas adds significant transfer benefits to Messi’s personal brand in the way that it boosts him on various platforms globally. Messi’s performances on the pitch speak for themselves and he has already matured despite his young age and established himself as a global super star so this is a partnership that may prove to be strong and enhance further in the years to come.
Adidas’s YouTube Channel.
Cortsen, K. (2013). Annika Sörenstam–a hybrid personal sports brand. Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, 3(1), pp. 37-62.