Athletes from across the world have been ranked according to their marketing potential over a three-year period from this summer.
- Value for money
- Home market
- Willingness to be marketed
- Crossover appeal
Neymar - Brazilian, 21, Soccer (1)
Some would say that Neymar, the first athlete ever to retain this title, is living the life of some kind of comic book hero. They would more or less be right: in April, Panini unveiled a series based on the life of Neymarzinho, a little white-shirted goalscorer with spiky hair and a cheeky grin. Much-loved cartoonist Maurício de Souza will have plenty of material for his newest character, even if the 2012-inspired storylines could be titled ‘Our Hero’s Doubters Gather’.
Every silver lining had a cloud for Brazilians at London 2012 as the men’s soccer team fell in the Olympic final at Wembley, while Neymar has rarely brought his domestic form on tour with him for his country’s glamorous European friendlies. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old held on to the South American Footballer of the Year award and the upcoming home Fifa Confederations Cup and World Cup are more pertinent tests of his undoubted talent. The Neymarzinho strips are not the only evidence of the Neymar phenomenon radiating through the Brazilian mainstream.
In February, he signed a deal with L’Oréal to endorse a personalised line of Drakkar Noir fragrances. Gulliver has manufactured a Neymar range of children’s toys. Neymar is a 21st century model of sporting superstardom, shaping one of the world’s most important emerging markets in wholly unexpected ways.
He was described by his employer, Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro, as a “genius at communication” in an August interview with SportsPro, and it is sponsorship appeal that has kept the 9ine client in Brazil so long. In a groundbreaking arrangement club partners like Panasonic, Claro, Lupo and Volkswagen effectively top up the striker’s salary to European levels.
A 2014 move to soccer’s richest continent remains inevitable, though, with Barcelona still the most commonly mooted destination. If it happens with the Seleção newly crowned as world champions, local brands will applaud the young man’s patience as their global colleagues await the biggest South American star in a generation. EC