Messi : What one man can do!
The branding Major League Soccer (MLS) needed
Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami in July 2023 has not only captured the attention of football enthusiasts worldwide but has also unleashed a seismic wave of transformation within the realm of Major League Soccer (MLS) — it’s called “Football”. While previous star signings like Pele, Beckham, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic left their mark on the league, none have created a splash as profound as Messi’s ripples.
Pele’s induction into the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1975 was a watershed moment. Yet the contextual circumstances during that era inhibited the resonance of his impact. The sport’s appeal was still in its nascent stages in the United States, and the reach of football was limited compared to its current global outreach. With his entry into the MLS in 2007, Beckham was indeed a sensation. However, his role was often associated with commercial endorsements and promotions in fashion and entertainment. His purchase of Inter Miami after his stint at the LA Galaxy did prove to be significant. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s entry in 2018 was marked by an electrifying debut, yet the buzz generated around him never quite eclipsed the magnitude of the frenzy that accompanied Beckham’s induction.
In stark contrast, Messi’s arrival transcends mere recognition; it heralds a seismic shift in the sport’s landscape. Messi’s status, hailed by many as the greatest of all time, elevates him above the rest. His unparalleled mastery of the ball, mesmerizing dribbling skills, and uncanny ability to score goals have earned him countless accolades, including a record seven Ballon d’Or titles. His journey to Inter Miami following a triumphant FIFA World Cup win adds an exclamation point to his remarkable career. The timing couldn’t be more impeccable. With social media and digital connectivity at their zenith, Messi’s presence on platforms like Instagram — with nearly half a billion followers — elevates him to a status beyond that of a mere athlete; he becomes a mass communication channel in his own right.
While previous superstar contracts in MLS made waves, Messi’s deal with Inter Miami is in a league of its own. The two-and-a-half-season contract, valued between $125 million and $150 million in cash alone, with added revenue-sharing deals with Adidas and AppleTV, puts it at an unprecedented level in the realm of American sports. The sheer financial commitment is indicative of the value Messi brings not just to Inter Miami but to the league as a whole. His presence is akin to a meteor striking the MLS, infusing it with newfound energy, excitement, and global attention.
Inter Miami’s meteoric rise in popularity since Messi’s arrival underscores his transcendent impact. Google searches for the team surged by a staggering 1,200%, catapulting the club into an unprecedented limelight. The surge in demand for tickets to Messi’s matches was equally breathtaking. Secondary market ticket prices soared by over 1,000%, turning previously moderate prices into extraordinary figures. The average ticket price for the League’s Cup match against Liga MX’s Cruz Azul more than tripled from $122 to $373 within a matter of days following Messi’s decision to join Inter Miami.
Moreover, merchandise sales for the team skyrocketed to unprecedented levels. Inter Miami became the top-selling MLS club on Fanatics, the digital sports platform and MLS e-commerce partner. The first 24 hours of Messi jersey sales shattered records, surpassing the sales numbers of any player changing teams across all sports. Such colossal figures epitomize the Messi effect — a phenomenon that has not only revitalized Inter Miami’s fortunes but has also invigorated the entire league.
In a broader context, Messi’s arrival holds immense promise for the growth of football in America. David Beckham, Inter Miami’s co-owner, expressed optimism about the trajectory of football’s evolution in the country. The growth of MLS from 15 teams in 2007 to 30 today, along with the presence of soccer-specific stadiums for most teams, signifies a transformative journey. Messi’s entry into this landscape is serendipitous, positioning him as a catalyst for further evolution.
On the pitch, Messi’s footballing abilities are not just awe-inspiring but transformative. His uncanny ability to read the game, control the ball with finesse, and create scoring opportunities has already demonstrated its magic in MLS. His presence has revitalized Inter Miami’s gameplay, offering a taste of his Barcelona-era tiki-taka mastery. Yet, this is not just about Inter Miami; it’s about football’s elevation on American soil. Messi’s influence transcends team allegiances; he stands as a symbol of excellence, a beacon inspiring young talents to dream bigger, fans to unite behind the beautiful game, and skeptics to embrace the global phenomenon that is football.
In the culminating chapter of this saga, Messi’s footprint is not just etched in the annals of Inter Miami’s history but is firmly imprinted on the future of MLS. His transformative effect extends beyond the pitch, radiating financial prosperity and renewed vigour. This visionary move by David Beckham and the ownership has proven astute, with Messi driving unprecedented merchandise sales and triggering a surge in global interest. Inter Miami’s revenue stands poised to double, breathing new life into the club and enhancing its valuation. Yet, Messi’s transcendence isn’t limited to the club; it reverberates across MLS, elevating the league’s stature and boosting its credibility on the international stage. With each mesmerizing touch of the ball, Messi paints a canvas of growth, turning Inter Miami’s ambitions into reality and setting MLS on a trajectory of enduring success.
Since joining the MLS side, Messi has already led Inter Miami to their first-ever trophy by winning the League’s cup and scoring 10 goals in the process. The level of immediate success that the arrival of one man has had on and off the pitch has been unprecedented, and the legend and the commercial brand of Messi will only grow larger and stronger!