Photo: Mickey on stage with FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu at the announcement of the new partnership.
In sport, it takes guts to win! Innovation is no different. Any team or organization that aspires to greatness will face countless challenges along the way. With the right vision, leadership, hard work and skill, however, any obstacle can be overcome.
Sports and business have so many things in common – teamwork, leadership, hard work, ambition, humility, respect and risk, just to name a few. Sport also has the ability to transcend language and cultural barriers and truly inspire us. This is why Rakuten has long had a special affinity with professional sports. In Japan, we own the Vissel Kobe football club, a leading team in Japan’s professional J-League that is based in the City of Kobe, and in 2004, we established the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a professional baseball team that in 2013 won the Japan Series.
Today I am thrilled to announce that we have entered into a partnership with one of the world’s most iconic and esteemed football clubs: FC Barcelona. Commencing from the 2017-2018 season, Rakuten will become FC Barcelona’s Main Global Partner and its first-ever Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner. With the Rakuten logo appearing on FC Barcelona match-day jerseys, we will power our global brand strategy. We will also bring together the collective power of our brands, like Viber, Wuaki, Ebates, Kobo and PriceMinister, and draw on their technological expertise across messaging, drones, e-commerce, AI and more to build an innovation framework that will deliver unique services to fans, members and players. Viber will also become FC Barcelona’s Official Communications Channel.
FC Barcelona is one of the most popular and successful clubs in football history. They have won the European UEFA Champions League five times and the Spanish professional league, La Liga, 24 times. Over the years, the club has been home to legendary talent – Lionel Messi, Maradona, Cruyff, Ronaldinho, to name a few. Its strategy to develop young local talent and shape them to be the stars of tomorrow is also unmatched.
I got to know FC Barcelona well ten years ago, when Rakuten issued an FC Barcelona credit card in Japan and managed its Japanese website. The more I learned about the club the deeper my love for it became. “More than a club” is not just FC Barcelona’s slogan, it really represents the club’s philosophy. I feel very, very deep empathy with this philosophy.
We have decided to take this great opportunity not only because FC Barcelona is the strongest club in the world but, more than that, we feel its philosophy really resonates with what we, Rakuten, have been pursuing for the last twenty years.
I am thrilled that Rakuten now has the opportunity to become a part of the Barca community, to support the players and join their fans in cheering them on to even greater successes.