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A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • Soccer club Barcelona is expecting to reach its highest ever revenues of €960 million (US$1.1 billion) during the 2018/19 season. The team also stated that it is expecting to reach its target of exceeding revenues of €1 billion by 2021.

 

  • Andrés Iniesta
    Andres Iniesta.

    Spanish player Andres Iniesta will have his own fly-on-the-wall documentary television series, focusing on his life in Japan with the J1 League Vissel Kobe team. The show will be produced by local e-commerce giant Rakuten, who financed Iniesta’s move to Kobe. The series will be available on Rakuten Viki in English, Spanish, and Japanese.

 

  • The Canadian Premier League (CPL) has signed a long-term deal with Macron, making the Italian-based company the official league kit provider beginning with the 2019 CPL season. The deal includes custom-designed playing kits and training gear for Canadian Premier League clubs; HFX Wanderers FC, York 9 FC, Forge FC, Valour FC, FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC, and Pacific FC squad and coaching staff.

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  • The New York Red Bulls has named New Jersey-based Brisas Bakery & Restaurant as the club’s official empanada. According to the club, this represents the first such sponsorship of any pro sports team in the country.

 

  • KonamiArsenal has expanded its global partnership agreement with Japanese video game company Konami, as the club’s official video game partner. In-game graphics of both the club’s first team players and the Emirates Stadium will benefit from 3D scanning, while former club legends will feature in the game for the first time.

 

  • Manchester United’s latest financial report showed revenues of UK£590 million (US$777 million). These numbers represent an increase of 1.5 percent on the previous year. The club cited sponsorship deals as a key revenue driver over the past year, with a total of seven partnerships signed including the team’s first ever sleeve sponsorship with Kohler.

 

  • The players of the FC Barcelona Club stepped into fashion by wearing Thom Browne custom made-to-measure suits for the first time, when arriving in London to play the Champions League match against Tottenham Hotspur. Thom Browne was announced as the official off-field outfitter of the Catalan soccer club in July 2018.

What: Rahul Kadavakolu, Executive Director of Global Marketing & Branding, Rakuten Group, talked about the Japanese brand’s recent Golden State Warriors sponsorship, during Portada’s 2017 Sports Marketing Forum.
Why it matters: The sponsorship represents the biggest NBA jersey sponsorship contract to date.

On September 12th, the Golden State Warrior announced they came to terms on a three-year jersey sponsorship deal with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. The jersey patch deal is reportedly worth US $20 million a year.

Today, during the 2017 Sports Marketing Forum in New York, Rahul Kadavakolu, Executive Director of Global Marketing & Branding, Rakuten Group, was the first person to talk about the deal, on behalf of the e-commerce giant. The brand is not only going global, but it is also making changes to its products so that each of them includes the name Rakuten, for example, Rakuten Viber, instead of just Viber.

Although soccer is growing, we needed something to amplify what we are doing in the U.S., therefore Golden State.

Rakuten has chosen sports to grow bigger and more global. Its FC Barcelona sponsorship is key for this strategy. But, “although soccer is growing, we needed something to amplify what we are doing in the U.S., therefore Golden State,” explained Rohan. He added that the Warriors is a winning team and Rakuten’s headquarters here is in the Bay Area: “It only was a logic conversion.”

Now, the Warriors will include an ad patch on its jersey, and it will also rename its practice facility to “The Rakuten Performance Center.”

 

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What: We talked to Rahul Kadavakolu, Executive Director of Global Marketing & Branding at Rakuten Group, about why the Japanese e-commerce company chose FC Barcelona as a key partner to pursue the objective to globalize its brand.
Why it matters: Rahul Kadavakolu will be participating in next week’s Portada Sports Marketing Forum on September 13 in New York City. Kadavakolu and Carlos Perez, CEO of La Liga USA, will discuss the enormous appeal of European soccer leagues in the U.S. and provide insights to sports marketers.

At the end of 2016, Rakuten signed an agreement with FC Barcelona valued at nearly $260 million to become its Main Global Partner, along with Nike, for the next four seasons, as well as its first Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner. The agreement started over a month ago when Rakuten made its debut during the “el clasico”  match Real Madrid-Barça, played in Miami during the ICC Tournament on July 29.

We are a global organization and soccer is as global as it can get.
Rahul Kadavakolu
Rahul Kadavakolu, Executive Director of Global Marketing & Branding at Rakuten Group.

“We are a global organization and soccer is as global as it can get,” says Rahul Kadavakolu, Executive Director of Global Marketing & Branding at Rakuten Group. When the company decided that it wanted to incorporate sports marketing as part of its expansion strategy, soccer’s global appeal made the sport an obvious match.

“Once we chose soccer, we looked for a partner, with a similar philosophy to ours in order to provide a community driven and positive  message,” he adds. Rakuten decided that a FC Barcelona sponsorship would fit the bill.

With the FC Barcelona partnership, Rakuten’s main objective is to generate brand awareness through a global reach. “In Japan, our brand has a presence in almost every household; now we want the same thing to happen in the rest of the world,” says Kadavakolu.

According to the executive, Barça is a team that has focused on boosting its relationship with technology. “Barça is very technological—this lets us really leverage on what they already have and work on new communities.”

In Japan, our brand has a presence in almost every household; now we want the same thing to happen in the rest of the world.

Rakuten GlobalFrom communicating with their fans on social media, to their own websites and mobile applications, the team’s platforms offer a good opportunity for Rakuten to optimize its investment through exclusive content.

“We don’t see this relationship as a sponsorship, but rather a partnership,” explains Kadavakolu. Among the more than 70 services offered by the Rakuten Group, its online telephony platform Viber is at the top of the list of what the company wants to promote with the FC Barcelona partnership. Viber is the official communication channel for the team.

Kadavakolu explains that in addition to some recent activations in stores and around the Barça game, the brand will take advantage of its base of more than 1.1 billion users to offer them exclusive team content and bring together Barca fans with Rakuten’s customers. “We have a lot of data from our users and we want to take this knowledge to the fans,” says the executive.

We have a lot of data from our users and we want to take this knowledge to the fans.

Eye on the Hispanic market  

Rakuten is also very interested in going after the Hispanic consumer. The company’s streaming platform, Viki, has been very successful in the Latin American market, mainly because of its portfolio of Korean novels.

Kadavakolu is confident that soccer content will become another major driver for Rakuten to engage U.S. Hispanic and Latin American consumers.

What: Rakuten has agreed to buy U.S. rebates website Ebates.com in Japan’s largest e-commerce deal for US $1 billion in cash.
Why it matters: This is the latest in a series of acquisitions to expand its business overseas.Rakuten will hold 100% of Ebates outstanding voting stock.

descarga (1)At a Board of Directors meeting, Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten has resolved to acquire rebate website operator Ebates.com for US $1 billion in cash in what it is Japan’s largest e-commerce deal, according to a company press release, to keep on expanding its business overseas.

Rakuten will hold 100% of Ebates outstanding voting stock. The acquisition of the remaining ownership by the other existing shareholders including employees of Ebates is planned simultaneously. CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has led Rakuten on a buying spree to reduce the firm’s reliance on the domestic market.

CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has led Rakuten on a buying spree to reduce the firm’s reliance on the domestic market
 

The firm started expanding businesses in e-Commerce after acquiring LinkShare in 2005. Other major acquisitions include messaging application Viber for US $900 million and Canadian e-book reader Kobo for US $315 million. Now, It is a natural fit for the Company to acquire a key player like Ebates, in order to develop a unique e-Commerce platform, by integrating its’ existing business assets and technologies with Ebates.

Ebates, founded in 1999, is a pioneer and major provider provider of the leading membership-based online cash-back site in the US and offers a platform that drives e-Commerce for retailers. With 2.5 million active members, The San Francisco company allows customers to earn cash back when shopping online at over 2,600 stores such as Amazon.com, Macy’s, Best Buy, Home Depot among others.  In FY2013, Ebates generated US $2.2 billion of gross merchandise value (GMV), net revenue of US $167.4 million, and operating income of US $13.7 million.

Rakuten said it filed a shelf registration to issue up to 100 billion yen (US $940 million) in bonds, saying it would use the proceeds for operating cash, capital expenditures and others. The combination of the two companies will give birth to an attractive and innovative membership-based marketplace for consumers featuring a point program at the core.

“Through this acquisition, we aim to jump ahead with our global e-Commerce strategy and lead the global e-Commerce industry,” said Mikitani.