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The Sheikh of Brands

This article will not be a sports article, but an attempt to read the events from the perspective of brands in relation to athletes around the world from different sports activities. It is an extension of my diverse readings in this field.


The image of the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, presenting the player and captain Lionel Messi with the "Bisht" cloak alongside FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the ceremony to crown the Argentina national team as the winner of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Lusail Stadium

The previous image, in all its different angles, may have been the most controversial in the world since Sunday, December 18, 2022. The talk about it has not stopped from east to west, and what made it even more exciting is that the Sheikh Tamim gave Messi this beautiful cloak "Bisht" just before Messi lifted the trophy with his teammates; this means that all the pictures that will be taken during this important moment by all the press lenses in the world will portray Messi wearing this robe. I must admit that the person who came up with the idea of "Bisht" is one of the geniuses of impact creation!


The strange thing is that since the start of the tournament, there has been a lot of talk on social media about the player Cristiano Ronaldo, and this matter increased after the loss of his country Portugal to Morocco, but after a few days, specifically after the final of the World Cup and the coronation of the Argentina national team as the champion against France, another personality became the subject of much talk; he is the former Argentine star Diego Armando Maradona "The Golden Child", then after that, another phenomenon in the world of football was mentioned, which is the Brazilian player Pelé "The Black Pearl" but to a lesser extent.


Why this timing specifically? Why Cristiano Ronaldo, then Diego Armando Maradona, then Pelé?


The game of opposites and contradictions cannot be predicted or manipulated on the target audiences. The audience is the first controller in creating impact. There are glimpses that creators make, but what develops any brand is the audience itself. This is something that cannot be easily predicted. It needs a precise analytical reading and a broad vision.


The war of brands by the fans never stops; in fact, the real hunting for trade and with all pleasure is in this area specifically, for example but not limited to; Apple Mac/ Apple OS and Windows, iPhone and Samsung or Huawei, McDonald's, Burger King and Hardee's, and even at the level of sports clubs we find Milan and Inter Milan, Liverpool FC and Everton FC, Al Hilal Saudi FC and Al Nassr Saudi FC. The language of quality or quantity does not matter. Neither the number of tournaments nor the art or pleasure matters. The pleasure always goes to the emotion of each audience and its choices. The how takes its course over time.


The question remains: Will Lionel Messi become the number one sports brand in the world?

And from this question, some readers may have a follow-up question, are athletes a form of brands? The answer is yes, of course, they fall under what is called celebrities. This is measured through several factors, including annual income, search engines, word-of-mouth marketing, etc. Here, the athlete must do what is called building his brand as a player if he wants to grow, his behavior, his appearance, his speech to the press, his choice of phrases, etc., which is called the Brand Persona term.


I read in Forbes magazine in the business field, not long ago, that the player Cristiano Ronaldo is the number one brand in the world, followed by the sprinter Usain Bolt. According to my simple and not very in-depth reading, Ronaldo is still the first brand, otherwise what explains the huge volume of his name's presence by his fans on social media just because Messi's name is mentioned.


The strange paradox, Messi is doing a huge historical achievement, while on the other hand you find another hashtag on social media scattered with Ronaldo's name without any active role, this matter is not more explainable!


Kylian Mbappé after his country won the silver medal in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar
Kylian Mbappé after his country won the silver medal in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

According to the same magazine, the player Kylian Mbappé is the highest-paid player in the world of football in 2022, followed by Lionel Messi, then Cristiano Ronaldo, then Neymar Jr., then the Egyptian player Mohamed Salah.


This does not mean that the highest-paid player is the highest-grossing brand. Income calculations are for the pitch, while their strength is in earning off the pitch, away from their professional careers. The magazine reported that Messi is expected to earn $55 million off the pitch this season, while Ronaldo is expected to earn $60 million, the latter figure being more than any other player off the field. Speaking of deals, both have signed lucrative deals with cryptocurrency companies over the past year, with Messi earning $20 million annually from Socios.com while Ronaldo partnered with Binance for an undisclosed amount.


Cristiano Ronaldo with Lionel Messi before an international friendly game between Portugal and Argentina in 2011
Cristiano Ronaldo with Lionel Messi before an international friendly game between Portugal and Argentina in 2011

The war of fans between Ronaldo and Messi may be on the verge of ending on the pitch, but I still believe it will continue off the pitch after that, depending on them. I also believe that the new shining names in football may bring about a different revolution in the next stage.


In conclusion, I would like to present my personal reading of the upcoming events; the spotlight is on player Kylian Mbappé, but I believe that this player needs a direct competitor to rise to the top of sports brands. Perhaps his presence today in the French League has not created a direct competitor for him, perhaps if he moved to a stable club in the Premium League, he would put his own mark on it, and if that happened, the Norwegian player Erling Haaland would also be a brand because of Mbappé's move to the PL - provided that he does not move to Manchester City (Haland's team), otherwise, how can he enter a competition of major brands? By the way, this is exactly what happened between Messi and Ronaldo.

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