When the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi announced that he would head to the United States to begin his MLS career, his “aroma” reached every corner of the United States. Inter Miami CF’s social media following exploded, ticket prices skyrocketed, and upcoming games sold out. Additionally, these surfaced prior to his contract signing.
Following PSG’s departure, the question was: could simply offering cash be enough to charm a player like Messi who positioned second in 2023 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid athletes at $130 million?
Well, Messi has lucrative deals in Miami and MLS appears to have included huge partners. The superstar athlete’s revenue splits are the subject of the deal.
According to Sportico, Messi’s 2½-year deal with Inter Miami is “worth up to $150 million total from his salary, signing bonus, and equity in the team.” Sources confirmed that the option for part-ownership of Inter Miami will not be subsidized as it was in 2007 for David Beckham, who could purchase an MLS team for a discounted price of $25 million.
Additionally, discussions were taking place regarding revenue-sharing arrangements with Adidas, Apple, and others.
While the multimillion-dollar salary portion of the contract for the 36-year-old Argentine soccer legend is old news in contemporary soccer, revenue-sharing agreements with league partners also provide something novel.
“That deal has never been given to anybody in baseball, basketball, football, and so it’s very unique,” said Irwin Kishner, co-chair of the Sports Law Group. “It’s a generational-type thing, and it’s hard to think if you would ever see anything comparable.”
A portion of the revenue from new subscribers to Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass streaming service is a topic of discussion. Apple and MLS began their decade-long media rights partnership with a $2.5 billion subscription service earlier this year.
Apple currently holds exclusive, worldwide rights for every MLS game, and the season pass also features both an English and Spanish broadcast crew.
“This [Messi’s arrival] is the sort of thing that will get them noticed and expand their international reach,” said Ed Desser, president of Desser Media Inc. “That is the kind of thing that’s particularly interesting for a global company like Apple.”
Adidas, the league’s official supplier and a longtime sponsor of the player, is said to be discussing a similar profit split, similar to the Nike-Michael Jordan deal over Air Jordan. However, Messi’s share of those increases—if any—is still unknown.
ESPN confirmed earlier reports that any agreement between Messi and Adidas would only be between the player and the company, not MLS.
Ernesto Bruce, CEO of For Soccer and former Adidas senior director of soccer, compared this agreement to an “evolution” of Beckham’s 2007 contract with the LA Galaxy.
David Beckham was a big catalyst when he came over,” he said. “He had a deal with Major League Soccer, he had a deal with LA Galaxy, and he also happened to have a partnership with Adidas while I was there. That was a revolutionary moment because part of that deal had a future ownership stake in an undisclosed MLS team.”
Inter Miami, of which Beckham is co-owner with brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, ended up being that MLS team. Now, Bruce says that Messi’s contract and presence in Major League Soccer are like an “accelerator.”
However, even with the NBA stars’ power, it probably won’t be sufficient to match Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccitini. ” Kishner stated, “I don’t think they have that level of power like Messi.” There is global reach, but it is not nearly as extensive as Messi’s.”
At the negotiating table, Messi is in a league of his own, and only a select few ultra-elite players can match his influence. The Argentine flaunts Instagram’s third-highest following — 478 million — behind only the social network itself and fellow soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 596 million followers.
Cara Lustik, an expert in branding and licensing, asserts that, while not all athletes have the same level of influence as Messi in securing revenue-sharing agreements, segmenting the subscription model into smaller segments in particular areas may be advantageous to other athletes.
She stated, “There are so many leagues that could use extra eyeballs, and to do that, the easiest way is to take advantage of the talent who has them, and everybody wins,”
In recent years, the streaming giants have taken a big bite out of live sports programming. “Thursday Night Football” from the NFL is available on Amazon Prime Video. Major League Baseball and Apple TV+ have formed a partnership to stream games. NFL Sunday Ticket is now available on Google’s YouTube TV, and the MLS Apple TV+ deal joins the growing list.
“Annual sports OTT subscription revenue in the United States was $13.1 billion in 2022 and will almost double to approximately $22.6 billion in 2027,” according to research conducted by Parks Associates, a market research and consulting firm.
Parks Associates senior contributing analyst Eric Sorensen attributed this shift to the pandemic and the requirement for a more immersive sports fan experience.
The NBA’s $2.66 billion-a-year contract with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery expires after the 2024–25 season, and the available options and competition for live sports programming perfectly set the stage.
All of their league partners, Messi, Inter Miami, and MLS, emerge looking fantastic. According to a report in the New York Times, the footballer still has a $25 million public partnership with the nation, despite the fact that the Saudi Pro League might not have been able to sign one of the greats.
The only people who won’t be able to participate are the Barcelona fans, whose hopes of seeing Messi play again might have to wait a few more years.
Meanwhile, Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas said, “I think there will always be a before and after Messi when we talk about the sport in the United States.”