Rakuten employees are used to being around world-class talent. Today, however, was something totally different.
In Tokyo to celebrate the launch of FC Barcelona’s new multiyear partnership with Rakuten, soccer superstars Messi, Neymar Jr., Pique and Turan visited Rakuten Crimson House, the company’s Tokyo headquarters, to spend time with Rakuten employees – a group that, Pique remarked, already feels like family.
Entering the lobby to raucous cheers, the players were each greeted with a bouquet of flowers and a Barca-themed O-kaimono panda (the official mascot of Rakuten Ichiba) by 300 of Rakuten’s new graduate hires, many of whom wore FC Barcelona jerseys emblazoned with the Rakuten logo on the chest. After taking part in a packed press conference with Japanese and international media, the players entered Rakuten’s auditorium for a special event with employees.
The moment the players stepped foot in the room, the audience of 2,000 went wild, giving their guests a standing ovation as they jockeyed to snap photos of the beloved footballers. And it wasn’t just Tokyo that was excited. A total of 10,000 employees joined the event around the world, connecting via live broadcast from 30 locations.
Once the room settled down and the players took their seats along with Mickey and FC Barcelona Vice President responsible for Marketing and Communication, Manel Arroyo, employees were given the chance to ask the blaugrana expedition a few questions.
Neymar Jr. spoke of his love for Japan and told the crowd he looked forward to showing everyone in attendance his work on the field. Responding to audience queries, Messi and Turan both spoke optimistically of their chances to win the La Liga and Champions League titles—vowing to work their hardest to bring success to the club. Finally, Pique spoke of his extended friendly relationship with Rakuten’s CEO, sharing his joy that Barca was able to partner with an organization that shares its unique values and philosophy.
After the Q&A session, the excitement ramped up to yet another level when the superstars stepped down from the stage to take a group photo with staff. The photos were taken to cheers of “let’s go Barcelona” as players and employees alike beamed – playing off each other’s amazing energy.
“This was, without a doubt the most exciting moment of my Rakuten life,” said Rakuten employee Sara, “I’m so proud of my company!”
“It was so exciting when I high-fived Messi,” said Mie, a longtime fan who saw the team play at their Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona seven years ago. “I still can’t believe it.”
Even soccer skeptics were won over. Taka, who admitted he didn’t know much about European soccer before the sponsorship, told us, “from this opportunity today, I have become a lifelong fan of FC Barcelona.”
After Barca’s unforgettable visit to Rakuten Crimson House, we’re betting he’s not alone.