Friday 5: More Reasons Sport Is A Business Winner

A quick pop quiz to kick-off our Friday 5. Which “organisation” has a value of $4.76bn and revenues of $792m?

The answer?

Futbol Club Barcelona, more commonly known as Barca. The Catalan, footballing powerhouse and home of the game’s GOAT, Lionel Messi, has topped the Forbes list of ‘The World’s Most Valuable Soccer Team’. Even better for the club, it has taken the top spot off rivals Real Madrid. El Clasico? More like El Cashico!

Forbes also reports that soccer club values are up 30% on average in the past two years. Clearly soccer, and sports, is big business and our Friday 5 (a-side) looks at other sports-related business stories.


1.Team Vitality joins forces with Racing Club de Strasboug Alsacre

Why should you care?

Esports is a massively growing market. Viewership is expected to reach 646 million in 2023, and gamers, or players as the industry calls them, have become celebrities in their own right thanks to Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Investments are also up to $4.5bn in the space and more and more football clubs are getting involved, with the biggest names in the sport having “teams”. Even professional footballers have stakes, with Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta having a share in esports “club” The Falcons.


2. Cricket’s The Hundred continues to stump the game’s more traditional fans

Why should you care?

Cricket has a bit of an identity crisis at the best of times. In a sport that literally stops for “tea” and takes place over five days, any change is met with absolute horror from the pavilion. The Hundred is the England Cricket Board’s (ECB) big idea to get a younger generation into the sport, and tap into new markets.

Unfortunately this whole new concept has gone down like a wet start on the fourth day of the test at Lord’s. This week, it was announced that they were replacing the term “wicket” to “outs”. Cricket is already full of confusing terminology. Try explaining to a newcomer to the game what silly-mid-off is and you will understand why this has become a barrier for many. So while this move makes sense on the surface, it was perceived as yet another PR own-goal for the new concept.

Could The Hundred be a success? Similar conversations were being had when Twenty20 came crashing into the sport, bat whirling and looking to hit the stuffy reputation of cricket for six. Now with the likes of the Big Bash and IPL going from strength to strength, along with England actually being good at it, it’s very much part of the game and popular with a younger crowd. It remains to be seen if The Hundred will do the same.


3. Zion Williamson launches signature shoe

Why should you care?

This one is for the sneakerheads out there. Trainers and the NBA have a relationship that dates back to the first Chuck Taylor All-Stars in the early 1920s, when basketball star Chuck Taylor asked Converse to create a  shoe with more support and flexibility. Sixty years later, Nike spent big on Michael Jordan in 1984 with the release of the Air Jordans. Both have transcended the sport, and become fashion staples in their own right.

Zion Williamson, the power forward for the Pelicans, is just the latest in the long line of NBA stars to have a signature shoe, even if it is through the Air Jordan brand. In fact, Air Jordan is more than just basketball these days, with major sponsorship deals with football club PSG and a number of baseball stars including New York Mets’ pitcher Dellin Betances on their books, showing that you don’t need to be confined by your sport to have business success. The PSG kits have got a lot of people particularly excited, with the club looking to cash in on the North American market with this collaboration.


4. Paul Pogba signs with Amazon to launch “The Pogumentary”

Why should you care?

Paul Pogba divides football fans like no other player. The flashy haircuts, the outrageous fashion and social media videos are ‘all that is wrong with the modern game’ for many. For others, he is a mercurial talent that can bend a game to his will when he’s deployed in the right position (left of a midfield three if you are wondering). So when it was announced that he has signed a partnership with Amazon and that his first project with the streaming giant is a documentary series about his life, titled The Pogmentary, it was met with the kind of reaction you would expect from the divisive Manchester United midfielder.

This mashup (or matchup – if you’re into wordplays) of sport and streaming has proved to be successful in the past though. The popularity of shows such as Last Chance U, the All or Nothing Series and individual documentaries focusing on the likes of Maradonna and Pele, shows that there is a real appetite for the personalities and characters in sport. 

Expect to see more players sign up for such ventures, showcasing another side to them, and with it probably more sponsorship and endorsements. This is the real business of sport, fully encompassing marketing and money-making machine, regardless of how it sits with a lot of fans.


5. Saints Score Bitcoin Bonuses

Why should you care?

Southampton have signed a shirt sponsorship deal that will see the Premier League have the option to pay players in bitcoin. It will only be bonuses, so if Southampton make the Champions League, James Ward-Prowse and friends will only then see some crypto heading their way, so don’t get too excited.

This is not the first time a football club has linked up with the cryptocurrency. Watford had bitcoin as a shirt sleeve sponsor in 2019, but this looks like the first time a club has planned to pay the players in crypto.

Bitcoin has certainly come a long way in recent years, with its price reaching above £45,100 on Tuesday for the first time ever, a rise of more than 1000% in a year. This link up with a Premier League club is an example of the currency looking to go even more mainstream and establish itself as a respected currency to the masses. In a sport that is awash with money, it was only a matter of time.