December 10, 2010: Is it ever too soon for a nation to begin activating behind its hosting of the FIFA World Cup? Not for, Qatar, which made headlines worldwide in early December when it was selected by FIFA to host the 2022 World Cup. National leaders have wasted no time in using sports marketing to ramp up their global persona, signing a multi-year, multi-layered branding, advertising and promotional deal with with FC Barcelona that will be anchored by jersey-front sponsorship for the Qatar Foundation.
Team executives for FC Barcelona, winner of the 2009 Champions League and one of the most storied soccer clubs in the world, called the deal a "remarkable milestone." Barcelona head coach Joseph "Pep" Guardiola played soccer for two years in the Qatar Stars League and was among the ambassadors promoting Qatar's World cup bid.
According to team officials, the five and a half year deal is in excess of $200 million. The team said it would receive $20 million for the second half of the current season and $ 40 million for each of the following five seasons, plus upward of $7 million in bonuses for any titles won. The Qatar Foundation, founded in 1995, is a non-profit organization whose purpose is "to bolster education, science and development" in the nation and surrounding regions.
Other FC Barcelona sponsors also include Nike, Audi, Turkish Airlines, Estralla beer. Among its players are international stars Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
This deal marks the first time in the 110-plus year history of FC Barcelona that team officials have worked a financial deal for jersey sponsorship. Since 2006, team jerseys have sported the logo of the United Nations Children's Fund, but the team said it does not receive money for the placement. According to Barcelona, a new jersey incorporating both logos is being designed by Nike, which is the club's official outfitter, but "if that is not possible the UNICEF name will take priority."
Industry analysts said the deal would help to motivate interest in and understanding of Qatar as their time to host the FIFA World Cup approaches. Concurrently, it provides FC Barcelona with needed financial support. The club is reported to have lost $100 million last season with current debts in excess of $500 million.
"With this deal Barcelona places itself as the indisputable brand leader in world football ahead of our international competitors," Javier Faus, vp-finances for Barcelona, said in a statement. The club stated that the alliance with Qatar Foundation "[is] a remarkable milestone because it represents a record level of revenue for a football club and has more value still in the current economic climate."
Faus said the team would renew its five-year deal with UNICEF that would end after the current season. He said that the club has contributed about $2 million per year "for humanitarian projects."
"The groundbreaking partnership between UNICEF and FC Barcelona advanced the global message on the importance of children's issues in a unique way," UNICEF officials said in a statement following the announcement of the deal with Qartar Foundation. "UNICEF is looking forward to the next stage of the collaboration and is exploring various options."
"With this deal Barcelona places itself as the indisputable brand leader in world football ahead of our international competitors."
Numerous soccer clubs in Europe with global followers akin to the level of FC Barcelona already have jersey-front sponsors, but Barcelona's deal, according to analysts, exceeds the jersey-front financial deals of such clubs as Manchester United (AON), Real Madrid (Bwin) and Bayern Munich. In the U.S. more than 75% of Major League Soccer clubs have jersey-front sponsor deals.
For the record, the State of Qatar is an Arab emirate located on a peninsula surrounded by the Persian Gulf on three sides and bordered by Saudi Arabia on the other. The official language is Arabic, and its population is about 1.7 million. It is among the most gas and oil rich laden nations in the world.