FC Barcelona signs up a massive new sponsorship deal worth more than $230 million over four years. But what is Rakuten, the Japanese firm lending its name to the famous red and blue striped shirts? Graham Mackay reports
It may not come as a shock that FC Barcelona's landed one of the largest soccer sponsorship deals of all time. But the name behind that that deal might not be so familiar. From 2017, Japanese online retailer Rakuten's logo will be appearing on Barca shirts for four years for a cool 235 million dollars - excluding bonuses. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT IN TOKYO, TIM KELLY, SAYING: "In Japan it's a very well known company. It's online retailing. It's similar to something like an Amazon or to Alibaba in China. They have various businesses. They have an online brokerage, they do e-commerce. It's run by Hiroshi Mikitani who in Japan is a very well know entrepreneur. He's seen as the new breed of entrepreneurs. He's kind of like these figures you see in the US like Bezos of Amazon he's that kind of person. He's seen as one who's challenged the old guard of business." Rakuten has made a lot of Western acquisitions over the years - including the mobile voice messaging app Viber - and a major stake in Pintrest. But recently, its European business has fallen on hard times and Mikitani hopes the Barcelona deal can play a role in fixing that. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT IN TOKYO, TIM KELLY, SAYING: "Barcelona is a very big football team. In Japan, Rakuten also has its own baseball team, which is used as a way to promote its business, so it's a way of promotion, a way of marketing that they're very familiar with." The deal is worth more on a yearly basis than Manchester United's massive sponsorship tie-up with Chevrolet. Rakuten now joining the likes of Sharp, Sega and JVC. Japanese giants that have all harnessed the power of European football over the decades.