TOKYO -- Spanish soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona is making a concerted push into Asia, inking deals with such companies as Japan's Rakuten to tap a market that is growing as European soccer becomes a global phenomenon.
The club signed a sponsorship contract with Rakuten that puts the e-commerce company front and center on the team's uniform starting this season. Rakuten "is a global IT company and commits to local communities," Manel Arroyo, vice president for marketing and communication, told The Nikkei. "The DNA of our club is social commitment."
The deal puts FC Barcelona's list of Asian sponsors for the 2017-18 season at 16, spanning such countries as China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. The club expects to pull in 80 million euros ($93 million) in sponsorship revenue from Asia alone. The aim is to double this to roughly 160 million euros in the coming years, Arroyo said, though he did not provide a specific time frame.
A Hong Kong office established in 2013, FC Barcelona's first foreign base, "is expanding [our] contacts with companies in Asia," noted Arroyo, who sees it creating more sponsorship opportunities.
The club also plans to expand its network of soccer academies in the Asia-Pacific region, where it now operates a total of 10 schools in Japan, China, India, Singapore and Australia. "We want to teach our philosophy in other countries," Arroyo said, adding that China has room for more schools as well.
FC Barcelona ranked second in Deloitte's Football Money League for the 2015-16 season, behind only England's Manchester United, with revenue of 620.2 million euros. The Spanish club aims to boost this to 1 billion euros in the 2021-22 season, partly by riding Asian growth, Arroyo said.
The soccer team enjoys a worldwide following thanks to such superstars as Lionel Messi of Argentina and Brazil's Neymar. The club boasts a total of 285 million followers on its social media accounts, Arroyo said.