In a $20 million three-year contract, renowned Argentinian football player Lionel Messi has become the global brand ambassador for blockchain fan token platform Socios. The news follows pushback from fan groups over the platform’s deal with UEFA.
Socios currently has over 130 sporting organizations on its roster, including PSG, Juventus, AC Milan, and South American football teams such as River Plate and Flamengo. It also has partnerships with teams in other sports, such as the NBA, NHL and NFL, although the launch of fan tokens is yet to be announced in the American sports franchises.
Football is the sport where Socios’ main product, fan tokens, has had the greatest impact. However, the platform must address two key competing challenges: the active rejection from organized fan groups and the need for increased brand exposure.
The addition of Messi as an influencer for the product can strategically contribute to Socios’s agenda in the football industry. Messi is one of the most recognized and respected names in football. His presence not only influences the results of the game but also the balance sheets of brands he is associated with.
In 2021, around 1.2 million Messi jerseys were sold, more than any other player. And when he announced a transfer from Barcelona FC to Paris Saint Germain, the French team gained 40 million followers and France’s Ligue 1 watched media groups compete over broadcasting rights. In addition, Messi himself has over 400 million followers across his social media platforms.
As a global brand ambassador, he will be expected to promote Socios on his accounts as well as appear in promotional content. His first project will be a brand campaign with the slogan, “Be more”.
The question is whether Messi’s brand will result in Socios receiving the benefit of the doubt from some skeptical fans through the player’s standing in the football industry. And Messi will have to tread carefully after the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority censured Arsenal Football Club over a Socios promotion.
It’s not the only one that has reservations. The Football Supporters Europe (FSE) organization has been one of the most vocal fan groups against Socios. Following UEFA’s announcement of a deal with Socios, FSE stated that they were “appalled by UEFA’s decision to team up with Socios, a company that monetises fan engagement at the expense of match-going fans” and that “this is an incomprehensible move at a time when football needs protection from crypto-mercenaries”.
Fans are concerned about the social division that monetizing fan engagement can have on the football community and the perception that the vast majority of Socios token holders are crypto speculators and not football fans.
Meanwhile, this is not Messi’s first involvement with Socios. When he completed his transfer from Barcelona to PSG in August of last year, he became the first football player to receive part of his transfer package in fan tokens, implying that he has some personal interest in the performance of the token.
In the five days leading up to the announcement, PSG fan token prices rose by over 130%, reaching a high of $50 per token on the day of the announcement. Total transactions amounted to $1.2 billion and generated almost $30 million in revenue. As of today, PSG fan token prices are sitting slightly above $14 as a reminder of the risks involved.