Football Club Barcelona ended their 111 year-tradition of not having a shirt sponsor back in late 2010 when they signed a reported world-record €125 million deal with the Qatar Foundation, which later changed to Qatar Airways.
A controversial move by the club who had previously used their shirt real estate to promote charitable organisations such as UNICEF.
If you had thought the Qatar deal was as good as it was going to get for Barca, you’d be very wrong.
Because six years after featuring a commercial name on their shirt for the first time, Japanese online firm Rakuten took over and have managed to wipe the floor with both Qatar deals.
The Qatar Foundation, is a semi-private foundation involved in education, science, and cultural development in the oil-rich nation.
The foundation featured on the shirts for two years’ worth €23 million per season, before national airline Qatar Airways took over in 2013, in a 4-year deal increasing the annual fee to €32 million.
Whilst those numbers are excessive, Rakuten currently pay a mammoth €55 million per season, and that deal will last until 2021.
This huge increase was reflected in the club’s financial accounts last season where in Qatar Airways last season commercial earnings stood at €264 million, but shot up to €305 million following the introduction of Rakuten.
That’s a 6% increase, to the sum of €41 million, Leading to record revenues at the club.
With several years left to run in the deal, Barça are likely to reach €1 billion in annual revenue far sooner than originally anticipated.
And with football and Barcelona growing in popularity around the world every day, after 2021, the could be an even bigger deal of the table from potentially new shirt sponsors.
Tech giants Amazon have been rumoured to be interested in investing in Football to cross promote their other services such as Prime Video, and would have the financial clout to beat of competitors.
For now, however, Rakuten are paying more than enough which has drastically improved the club’s economic status making the Catalan club as powerful as ever.