GETTING IN THE GAME: Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce player, kicked off its sponsorship of the FC Barcelona soccer team with a press conference at its headquarters in Tokyo on Thursday. In addition to the company’s founder and chief executive officer Hiroshi Mikitani, the event was attended by players Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., Gerard Piqué and Arda Turan.
Rakuten officially became the main global partner of FC Barcelona on July 1 through an agreement worth 55 million euros, or $62.9 million at current exchange, per year in addition to title incentives, making it one of the biggest sponsorships in soccer. The four-year contract includes an option to extend for one additional year.
Rakuten will also act as the club’s official “innovation and entertainment” partner, leveraging its expertise in messaging, drones, e-commerce, artificial intelligence and other fields.
Mikitani said soccer is a passion of his and that he’s excited to work with the team. Rakuten also owns the Japanese professional baseball team known as the Rakuten Eagles.
“The partnership with Rakuten, I think, is more than a partnership. We consider them as family,” Piqué said during the press conference. “We have the same values, the same philosophy, Futbol Club Barcelona and Rakuten, and I think that we have the same thoughts about not just playing, but having fun. Not just working, but enjoying what we do.”