Barcelona, the financially-embattled giants from Spanish soccer’s top-tier LaLiga, have confirmed a major, multi-faceted and multi-year sponsorship deal with Swedish audio streaming giant Spotify, covering both stadium naming rights and front-of-shirt branding rights.
The deal, announced yesterday evening (March 15), will mean Spotify puts its name to Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou stadium, as well as the shirts of both the men’s and women’s first teams, from the start of the 2022-23 LaLiga season in July – both of these arrangements are multi-year affairs, with the club having said the shirt deal will last for four seasons.
This will mark the first time that the club’s home ground, which opened in 1957 and has a seated capacity of 99,000, takes on a naming rights sponsor. – becoming the Spotify Camp Nou – with local media reporting the deal is worth a total sum of €280 million ($320 million).
Spotify will replace Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce brand, as the men’s front-of-shirt sponsor, and home tools brand Stanley Black & Decker on the front of the women’s kits.
Rakuten had been in place in that key role since 2017, with its current deal, extended in November 2020, due to run out at the end of the ongoing 2021-22 campaign. When it struck that original four-year deal in November 2016, the fee was believed to be €55 million per season.
However, it is now paying a heavily reduced fee for the 2021-22 season, having refused to go back to pre-pandemic valuation levels.
It is also expected that Spotify’s logo will adorn the Barcelona training kits, taking a position which since 2018 has been filled by Turkish domestic appliance manufacturer Beko in a deal believed to be worth €57 million in total.
Barcelona have said the deal is a “first of its kind” for the club, and that it will “bring the worlds of music and soccer together.”
The agreement represents Spotify making a head-turning debut in terms of sports sponsorship – so far, the platform has only gained notoriety in terms of sports during the brief period in 2021 when its founder Daniel Ek was (according to his own claims) in early-stage discussions, which eventually amounted to nothing, around buying English top-flight soccer side Arsenal.
In a statement, the club said: “The vision for the partnership is to create a new platform to help artists interact with Barcelona’s global community of fans.”
The club is taking what would previously have been an unthinkable step, bringing in a naming rights sponsor for the renowned Camp Nou, as a result of the deep financial hole it finds itself in.
Barcelona’s debt stood at €1.35 billion late last year, with the club’s economic woes having led to their best player and all-time great Lionel Messi leaving last summer, and being likely responsible in some part for their involvement in the ill-fated European Super League project last April.
The club is also keenly looking for financial capital in order to redevelop and to some extent rebuild the Camp Nou, with that project expected to cost in the region of €1.5 billion.
The links between Spotify and Barcelona – in terms of a deal covering both stadium naming rights and front-of-shirt rights – were first reported early last month, with local Catalan radio reporting that Spotify executives were in the stadium for Barcelona’s game against rivals Atletico Madrid, and that negotiations had been going on since October last year.
It was also reported at that time that Chinese internet firm Tencent and cryptocurrency companies Vegan and Polkadot had initially also been in the running in terms of securing a shirt sponsorship deal.
At the same time as the initial Spotify links were established, Barcelona’s chief executive Ferran Reverter – who only took up that position in July last year – announced his resignation.
While he has since said he stepped down to spend more time with his family, media reports since then have suggested that he had numerous disagreements with president Joan Laporta during his seven months in office – with the Sportify deal understood to be amongst them, and ultimately proving the final straw.
Reverter had reportedly played a fundamental role in negotiations with Spotify but was unhappy with the final terms of the deal, many of which had been revised at the last minute.