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What Messi’s MLS, Apple, Adidas deal means for everyone



The moment seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi announced he would head to the U.S. to begin his MLS career, the “Messi effect” immediately took hold. Inter Miami CF’s social media following exploded, ticket prices skyrocketed and upcoming fixtures sold out. And all before he even signed a contract.

As the league and club went to work on the specifics of Messi joining Inter Miami following the expiration of his PSG contract on June 30, questions emerged about how one goes about formulating a deal compensating for such influence. Would just offering money be enough to woo a player who ranked second in 2023 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes at $130 million?

What else can you bring to the table? Miami and MLS’ answer appears to be to bring league partners into the mix.

The deal, unique in its structure, raises interesting questions about revenue splits for superstar athletes and the cascading impact on media rights negotiations.

According to Sportico, Messi’s 2½-year deal with Inter Miami is “worth up to $150 million total from his salary, signing bonus, and equity in the team.” Sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle that the option for part-ownership of Inter Miami will not be subsidized as it was in 2007 for David Beckham, who could purchase an MLS team for a discounted price of $25 million.

But that’s not all. In addition, revenue-sharing agreements with Adidas, Apple and others were being negotiated. Here are some key questions and answers about Messi’s “unprecedented” MLS deal and what it means for everyone else.

Contract talk is usually boring talk unless you have a 36-year-old Argentine soccer legend attached to it. And this one does.

While the multimillion-dollar salary side of the contract is stale news in modern soccer, the revenue-sharing agreements with league partners offer something new. One industry expert called the Apple part of the deal “unprecedented.” Another termed it “unusual.”

“That deal has never been given to anybody in baseball, basketball, football, and so it’s very unique,” said Irwin Kishner, co-chair of the Sports Law Group. “It’s a generational-type thing, and it’s hard to think if you would ever see anything comparable.”

ESPN confirmed that part of the ongoing discussion is a cut of revenue from new subscribers to Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass streaming service. The subscription service on Apple TV+ was launched earlier this year when Apple and MLS kicked off their $2.5 billion decade-long media rights partnership.

“I do think in a significant way that what the [Messi] deal’s about is customer acquisition,” said John Kosner, president of Kosner Media, a digital media and sports consultancy. “Customer acquisition is perhaps the biggest issue in sports and sports media these days.”

Apple currently holds exclusive, worldwide rights for every MLS game, and the season pass also features both an English and Spanish broadcast crew. “This [Messi’s arrival] is the sort of thing that will get them noticed and expand their international reach,” said Ed Desser, president of Desser Media Inc. “That is the kind of thing that’s particularly interesting for a global company like Apple.”

A similar profit split — reminiscent of the Nike-Michael Jordan deal over Air Jordan — is said to be in discussion with Adidas, the official supplier of the league and a longtime sponsor of the player himself. What cut of those increases, if any, Messi gets is yet unknown. Any agreement between Messi and Adidas would strictly be between the player and the company and wouldn’t directly involve MLS, ESPN confirmed in earlier reports.

Ernesto Bruce, CEO of For Soccer and former senior director of soccer for Adidas, likened this deal to an “evolution” of what Beckham’s contract was when he signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007. “David Beckham was a big catalyst when he came over,” he said. “He had a deal with Major League Soccer, he had a deal with LA Galaxy, and he also happened to have a partnership with Adidas while I was there. That was a revolutionary moment because part of that deal had a future ownership stake in an undisclosed MLS team.”

That MLS team wound up being Inter Miami, where Beckham is co-owner alongside brothers Jorge and Jose Mas. Now, Bruce compares Messi’s contract and presence in MLS to an “accelerator.”

What does this deal mean for other star athletes’ contracts in the future?
MLS, a fairly young and innovative league, and Messi, one of the sporting greats, are uniquely positioned assets in their own way as parties to a deal of this scope. At the upper echelons of sporting legend, only a few command the same influence as the man from Rosario.

In the NBA, one could argue, what about Steph Curry? LeBron James? Would Messi’s potential revenue-sharing agreement inspire something similar for them?

“That is really going to set some alarm bells off,” a former NBA agent said. “For the right players and the right player agents, if they have individuals who can really move the needles — so the Giannis Antetokounmpos of the world, the Nikola Jokics of the world, the Joel Embiids of the world, they are going to look at this in the next collective bargaining and say, ‘Listen, players control the league,'” he said.

But even with the NBA stars’ power, it might not be enough to match Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccitini. “I don’t think they have that level of power like Messi,” Kishner said. “There is global reach, but not nearly what a Messi has.”

Much like on the pitch, Messi is in a league of his own at the negotiating table, his influence matched by only an ultra-elite few. The Argentine boasts Instagram’s third-highest following — 478 million — behind only the social network itself and fellow soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 596 million followers.

However, there might be other ways to creatively approach such negotiations. “What I’ve learned in all my years in licensing, there is a thing called ‘slicensing’ — because you can slice the pie up,” said Cara Lustik, a branding and licensing expert.

Lustik explained that while not every athlete can match Messi’s scope of influence in securing revenue-sharing agreements, slicing the subscription model into smaller segments in specific regions could favor other athletes. “There are so many leagues that could use extra eyeballs, and to do that, the easiest way is to take advantage of the talent who has them, and everybody wins,” she said.

Another league that might take notice? The NWSL, Bruce said. “The U.S. leads soccer in the women’s game,” he said. “And so how does NWSL adapt to this?”

What about Apple, MLS and a sign of the future of live sports programming?
The streaming giants want a bite of live sports programming and in recent years, they’ve chomped down. Amazon’s Prime Video has NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.” Apple TV+ is in a partnership with Major League Baseball to stream games. Google’s YouTube TV is now home to NFL Sunday Ticket, and you can add MLS’ Apple TV+ deal to the growing list.

Research by Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company, showed that “annual sports OTT subscription revenue in the United States was $13.1 billion in 2022 and will almost double to approximately $22.6 billion in 2027.”

Eric Sorensen, a senior contributing analyst at Parks Associates, attributed this shift to the pandemic and the need for a more immersive experience for the sports fan. “Sports online, on streaming services, are much more engaging from interactive feature sets, from the chance and the ability to potentially place bets and wagers, the stats and data and integration that’s coming into the screen,” he said.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for traditional broadcasters. Kosner, a former ESPN executive vice president, emphasized that technology companies are not media companies first. “I think we’re going to see a bifurcation of different rights really based upon the interests and priorities of these bidders, including traditional companies and also just the viewing habits of sports fans,” he said.

The choices available and competition for live sports programming perfectly set the stage just as the NBA’s $2.66 billion-a-year deal with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery expires after the 2024-25 season.

“I don’t think that the NBA could have planned it much better,” said Desser, who was the former chief negotiator for all the NBA and WNBA national media agreements. “The combination of various parties trying things out for the first time and seeing what could happen will accrue to the NBA’s benefit.”


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Messi’s famous Barcelona napkin auction opens in London



Lionel Mess

The auction for the napkin which famously launched Lionel Messi’s Barcelona career as a 13-year-old opened this week with a guide price of £300,000-£500,000 ($374,700-$624,500).

Bidding for the item stands at £220,000 and will be open with the British auction house Bonhams until May 17.

The sale was originally slated for for March but was postponed due to a dispute over the ownership of the napkin, which has been in the hands of Horacio Gaggioli, an Argentine agent, for the last two decades.

Josep Minguella, another advisor involved in the deal to bring Messi over from Argentina, claimed possession of the napkin following the news it would be auctioned earlier this year.

Gaggioli disputed this, while Bonhams told ESPN there were “no problems” regarding the sale of the napkin, which is listed on their website as “property of Horacio Gaggioli.”

The auction for the napkin has opened after a dispute over it original ownership. Bonhams
Minguella has not replied to ESPN’s request for comment. With Messi’s father, Jorge, beginning to doubt Barça’s commitment to his son in 2000, the club’s director of football at the time, Carles Rexach, hastily scrambled together an agreement on a napkin.

It was signed by Rexach, Minguella, who had helped bring Messi over from South America, and Gaggioli, who helped broker the deal, serving as a promise for a first contract.

Since then, it has remained under the ownership of Gaggioli in a secure vault in Andorra, the Principality to the north of Barcelona sandwiched between Spain and France.

Negotiations for it to be incorporated into Barça’s museum at the club’s Spotify Camp Nou stadium broke down in the past.

The napkin was originally signed on Dec. 14, 2000 at a tennis club in Barcelona after Rexach had received a frantic call from Jorge Messi threatening to take his son back to Argentina.

“That was when, thinking on my feet, I decided everything,” Rexach told ESPN in 2020 to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing.

“Why a napkin? Because it was the only thing I had available to hand. I saw the only way to relax Jorge was signing something, giving him some proof, so I asked for a napkin from the waiter.

“I wrote: ‘In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and in the presence of Messrs Minguella and Horacio, Carles Rexach, FC Barcelona’s sporting director, hereby agrees, under his responsibility and regardless of any dissenting opinions, to sign the player Lionel Messi, provided that we keep to the amounts agreed upon.’

“I told Jorge that my signature was there and that there were witnesses, that with my name I would take direct responsibility, there was nothing else to talk about and to be patient for a few days because Leo could already consider himself a Barca player.”

Messi, who now plays for MLS side Inter Miami, went on to become Barça’s greatest ever player, making more appearances (778) and scoring more goals (672) than anyone else who has played for the club.

During over 20 years in Barcelona, he won 10 LaLiga titles, seven Copas del Rey and four Champions League trophies while playing for the club before joining Paris Saint-Germain and later Inter Miami.

Individually, he has won the Ballon d’Or a record eight times and has also been named The Best FIFA Men’s Player on three occasions.

International success with Argentina had eluded him until recently, but he finally won the Copa América in 2021 and the World Cup in 2022 to go with the Olympic Gold Medal he won in 2008.



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F1 signs multi-year extension to ‘US$40m-a-year’ DHL deal



Formula One has agreed a multi-year expansion of its global partnership with logistics company DHL.


  • DHL will continue as the series’ global logistics partner
  • The extension is described as a ‘longer-term commitment’, suggesting a longer contract than the four-year extension signed in 2021.


This latest extension builds on a 20-year relationship between Formula One and DHL, with the most recent deal worth around US$40 million per season, according to sponsorship analytics platform Luscid.

Recently, DHL has worked with Formula One on reducing emissions produced by logistics, with a biofuel trial during the European leg of last season resulting in an 83 per cent reduction.


“As our longest-standing partner, DHL has become such a crucial part of the delivery of our events, so we’re delighted to continue that successful collaboration for many more years,” said Jonny Haworth, director of commercial partnerships for Formula One.

“Our partnership has seen the sport transform and grow, and DHL have been hugely supportive in our transition to become a more sustainable sport.

“This will continue to be key as we move towards 2030 and as sustainable logistics continue to develop, I look forward to seeing the positive innovations that come next.”

Coming next:

The 2024 Formula One season gets underway this week with the Bahrain Grand Prix from 29th February to 2nd March.


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CAF to make about $75m in estimated revenue for AFCON 2023



At the Stade Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan last Sunday, mixed emotions filled the air. Heartbreak for the Super Eagles of Nigeria and joy for the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, who clinched the AFCON 2023 trophy with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria.

Ivory Coast’s remarkable journey to lifting the trophy concluded a thrilling AFCON, making it the best experience so far.


During the Africa Cup of Nations opening ceremony on January 13th, CAF President Patrice Motsepe expressed optimism that AFCON 2023 would be the best so far. The events and drama that unfolded in Abidjan undoubtedly support this claim.


Before the final of the competition, Dr Patrice Motsepe mentioned in a press conference that nearly 2 billion people had tuned in to watch AFCON 2023.


The notable rise in viewership was linked to broader broadcast rights, media coverage, commercial partnerships, and the influence of social media.

CAF had 17 commercial partners for the tournament, which included TotalEnergies as the title sponsor, official sponsors such as 1xBet, Visa, and Orange, along with regional sponsors like Ecobank, Unilever, and MTN.


Matches were shown in about 180 countries through deals with partner broadcasters like Sky, Canal+, beIN Sport, BBC, and MultiChoice, as well as 45 Free To Air broadcasters.


Media accreditation saw 6,000 journalists apply, which is double the number from the last AFCON in Cameroon in 2022.

How Many People Viewed AFCON 2021 and how it compares to AFCON 2023? 

The CAF activity report for 2021-2022 indicates that around 500 million viewers from 160 nations tuned in to watch AFCON 2021 in Cameroon, marking an increase of 40 nations compared to AFCON 2019 in Egypt.


Additionally, CAF recorded 1.4 billion streaming impressions on its digital platforms, and there were 351.4 million online video views associated with AFCON Cameroon 2021.


By sticking to the earlier estimate of 2 billion people before the final, it suggests that AFCON viewership saw an increase of over 300%, and this could be more when the official report from CAF is released.

Estimated Sponsorship Revenue for AFCON 2023 

According to GlobalData, a London-based market research firm, it is projected that CAF will generate approximately $75 million in sponsorship revenue from the current AFCON.


The tournament featured 17 commercial partners, including TotalEnergies as the title sponsor, along with 1xBet, Orange, and Unilever.


In the fiscal year 2021-2022, CAF’s overall revenue reached $103.6 million. The sponsorship funds derived from Competitions contributed significantly to this total, generating an impressive cumulative revenue of $79.8 million.


This marked a notable increase of $3.6 million compared to the previous year’s sponsorship funds.


The projected sponsorship revenue for the AFCON 2023 alone is estimated to be $75 million, underscoring the substantial and commendable contribution of CAF to this achievement.


In January, prior to the commencement of AFCON 2023, CAF disclosed a 40% increase in the prize money.


The champions, Ivory Coast, are set to receive USD 7,000,000. The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be awarded USD 4,000,000, while South Africa and DR Congo will each receive USD 2,500,000.


The other four quarter-finalists, Mali, Angola, Guinea, and Cape Verde, will individually get USD 1,300,000.


AFCON made a big impact on social media, from lively fan chats to live updates. But it wasn’t just for fun; some people also made money from it.


Last year, Twitter started an initiative where users could earn a share of the ad revenue from sponsored posts under their tweets.


Some folks partnered with brands, joined subscription programs, or got tips from their followers.


For example, a video of the final moments of the Côte d’Ivoire vs. Nigeria match, posted on the official CAF account, got over 15 million views, 1.5 million likes, and 300,000 retweets.


According to Statista, the average cost per thousand impressions for social media ads globally was $4.33 in the second quarter of 2023, making the estimated ad revenue around $65,000.


The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations was undoubtedly a success both on and off the field. The Confederation of African Football, CAF can take pride in organizing a splendid tournament.


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