TicketManager | Messi’s Impact Could Extend to Incentive-Based Partnership Payments

At some point—probably when the MLS season ends and the NFL calendar hits its midpoint—the nearly breathless coverage of the arrival in the U.S. of the world’s greatest soccer player will subside.

Until then, each day seems to uncover another nugget in the search for the “meaning of Messi.” That now includes sponsorship and partnership contracts and a long-predicted development whose time may finally have come.

In this case, credit does not go to the G.O.A.T. himself, but to his new club, Inter Miami CF, and the executives that have structured the organization’s agreements with corporate partners.

As reported by Sportico, the club’s chief business officer, Xavier Asensi, “said Inter Miami has for the last few years pushed to sign sponsorships that included a clause that would increase payments to the team should a player of Messi’s caliber sign with the club. The contracts don’t mention Messi by name, but instead they include escalators should Inter Miami sign a player with multiple Ballon d’Or awards—the prize given annually to the world’s best soccer player.”

That action demonstrates real foresight on the part of the property, recognizing the potential to deliver exponentially more value to sponsors with a global superstar on the roster, as well as the fortitude to turn away several prospective partners that would not agree to future increases in spending, according to Asensi.

Incentive-based payment structures such as Inter Miami’s escalators are a form of pay-for-performance, a practice that is much talked about in sponsorship but less frequently put into action. When Anheuser-Busch introduced a much-ballyhooed performance-based sponsorship model five years ago, many predicted the sports marketing giant’s move would be a tipping point for the industry, yet such deals remain the exception, not the norm.

Perhaps the impetus for more pay-for-performance sponsorship contracts needs to come from rights holders seeing a clear example of the practice benefiting a peer organization.

In that case, the fact that Inter Miami’s increased sponsorship income is in line to be part of a quadrupling of the club’s estimated revenue from 2022 to an MLS-record $200 million next year, as projected by Asensi, might just be the push other properties need to invest in themselves in a similar fashion.

On top of including escalator clauses, Sportico reports that Inter Miami also was strategic in setting some of its partnership agreements to expire at the end of this year, allowing the club to negotiate extensions or open up categories at a time when its stock is at its highest. Those deals include its front-of-jersey opportunity, currently held by cryptofinance company XBTO.

Given the circumstances surrounding the club’s newest player, the awarding of those rights will likely be closer to an auction than a traditional sales process.