Somehow, the Premier League season is just days away.
Ramble of the Day
I continue to find the world of corporate sponsorship in sport fascinating because I find the art of crafting one’s image fascinating. The task is about two parties’ images — the brand’s and the athlete’s — and that meeting point. Lionel Messi inherently makes an interesting case, because at this point he can probably be picky about his sponsorships. It is worth remembering that being picky is a choice in this instance; just because he can doesn’t mean he has to.
Anyway, it’s a long way to tease the fact that Messi is now a brand ambassador for Hard Rock International.
Naturally, Messi has soaked up the partnership by visiting the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida and the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza, visiting the Ibiza location with ex-Barcelona teammate Luis Suárez.
Messi is definitely a top-notch brand ambassador for any company. He has an international appeal that few others have, and his success adds the perception of glamor to any brand he chooses to partner with. I personally would not consider a Hard Rock hotel to be a glamorous destination, but I understand Hard Rock’s bet. Messi is a rich and famous guy who lives like it, even if he does so quietly through caption-less Instagram posts. Plus, if you’re lucky, he may invite another relatively famous friend for the ride. My question is for Messi, and it is a simple one: Why would he want to partner with Hard Rock International?
The answer, I realize, is quite simple: Hard Rock probably offered him a really nice amount of money, ranking relatively high amongst his other sponsorship deals. I think it’s also that the imagery of a Hard Rock Hotel does not matter to him — it’s not remotely offensive to him. Messi unquestionably lives like a rich person, but only in a most basic way: he does things that cost a lot of money and isn’t that interested in chasing something considered glamorous or even trendy.
The real indicator that something like that doesn’t cross his mind is that he advertises Hard Rock hotels alongside Hotel MiM, a very different type of hotel chain that Messi has actually invested money in. Hotel MiM has the look of a modern high-end hotel with some personality, and inherently a little more refined than a Hard Rock hotel. To the credit of the Hard Rock hotels, they have clearly pivoted towards classic and modern interiors but still give off the vibe of a resort with a little too much interest in branding. (You cannot ask me to be too nice to a hotel shaped like a giant electric guitar.)
As a brand ambassador, Messi also maintains a special quality in that none of this really matters. His true reputation is that he’s the greatest footballer of his time, and what that affords him off the field never really resonates with the audience. An easy comparison is David Beckham, who also reached a certain height on the pitch and fame off it. Sponsorship is a big part of how people perceived Beckham; that will likely never be the case for Messi. Maybe his particular heights on the field overshadow everything, but I think it goes back to the quietness Messi exudes off the pitch — none of his partnerships are loud enough to perceive the man in any other way.
There may be something inherently notable about Messi partnering with a tacky, overpriced hotel chain. There may also be something inherently noteworthy about how that contradicts the branding of a string of hotels he partly owns. (For what it’s worth, it’s also much more expensive to stay in a Hard Rock hotel than a Hotel MiM building.) Messi, either carefully or not, has perfectly landed himself in a spot where none of that makes a difference to anyone or anything other than his bank account. It’s actually pretty impressive.
tl;dr: Lionel Messi may have a partnership with a tacky hotel brand, but he’s crafted his image in such a way that it kind of doesn’t matter (despite a conflict with a hotel chain he owns).
Stay informed, read this: Jenna Fryer on the Olympics’ ban on the Soul Cap and how it spotlights racial inequality in swimming for the Associated Press
Links of the Day
Ex-England international Terry Cooper died aged 77.
Ajax academy player Noah Gesser died aged 16 following a car accident.
Canada’s Tajon Buchanan received racist abuse on social media after his team’s Gold Cup semifinal loss.
The NWSL and the Portland Thorns’ Olivia Moultrie reached a settlement that will allow the 15-year-old to play in the league.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold signed a new deal keeping him at the club until 2025.
A longer read: Caitlin Murray interviews Crystal Dunn on her journey to the USWNT and creating a more inclusive environment for Black players for ESPN