One of the biggest sports announcements of 2023 happened recently with news that soccer superstar Lionel Messi is set to join Major League Soccer (MLS) team Inter Miami for the upcoming season.
Before he plays a single game, Messi is already having a huge impact on Inter Miami and MLS.
Messi is set to join Inter Miami after turning down an offer from Saudi Arabia and a return to Barcelona. Miami has been interested in Messi for years, with talk of a move linked to the MLS team gaining steam in November 2022.
The World Cup winner and seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is one of the best soccer players in the world and one of the favorites of fans, something that could help move MLS and Inter Miami forward when it comes to attendance, viewership and merchandise sales.
Part of the move to bring Messi to MLS included Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) working together on the deal. Apple is offering a reported share of revenue for all new MLS Season Pass subscriptions sold.
Apple landed the exclusive rights to MLS games in a 10-year deal valued at a reported $2.5 billion. The contract began with the 2023 season and sees AppleTV+ as the home of several MLS games alongside all games being offered as a full year streaming package.
Adidas (OTC: ADDYY), who has a deal with MLS and an existing deal with Messi was also reported to be included in the mix, offering Messi a cut of revenue from new shoes sold during the MLS season.
While Inter Milan and MLS have shelled out a large amount of money to get their biggest signing in over a decade and potentially ever, the early results speak volumes.
One of the easiest examples to see of the Messi effect is the growth in Inter Miami’s social media following. The team went from having around one million followers on Instagram to now having around 7.8 million followers.
With 7.8 million followers on Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ: META) -owned Instagram, Inter Miami is now the most-followed Miami sports team, passing the NBA’s Miami Heat at 7 million.
Messi is the second most followed person on Instagram at 470 million, trailing only fellow soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who is at 589 million. Outside of soccer players, basketball player LeBron James at 27th is the most followed athlete with 154 million followers.
A photo of Messi lifting the FIFA World Cup Trophy became the most-liked photo on Instagram of all time with 63.5 million likes in 48 hours. The photo, which now has 75.6 million likes could be a testament to the strong following Messi has.
Sports reporter Joe Pompliano shared the Messi impact seen on Instagram with an example of Inter Miami’s posting its starting lineups. The post of the starting team got 7,000 likes in the week before Messi’s deal was announced. The starting lineup post after Messi was announced as signing with Inter Miami got 730,000 likes. Neither post involved Messi, but the impact is seen by the increase in fans and followers.
Pompliano shared that Inter Miami saw a 4,500% increase in merchandise sales, ranking as the third best-selling team on Fanatics recently. This could be good news for MGO Global Inc (NASDAQ: MGOL), which manages the online Messi store.
Along with an increase in Inter Miami merchandise, Messi merchandise is likely seeing increased sales. Shares of MGO Global rose sharply last week and are up 97% in the last month.
Pompliano also said that Adidas could sell two million jerseys this year at an average of $150. The $300 million in revenue from jerseys would bring in $45 million for Inter Miami (at a 15% cut), which would be two times its annual revenue.
Another item seeing an increase is ticket sales. Pomplinao said Inter Miami saw a 1,200% increase in ticket prices recently. A look at StubHub shows the rise in resale tickets related to Messi, who has no scheduled premiere date at the time of writing.
Tickets for Inter Miami’s match with Philadelphia Union on June 24 are listed at a minimum of $54 on StubHub. Fast-forward to the League Cup in July against Atlanta United and the tickets are listed at a minimum of $437. An Aug. 20 home match against Charlotte FC has tickets listed at a minimum of $212. Messi is expected to join the team in July or August.
Inter Miami is paying an estimated $125 million to $150 million to Messi for his two-year contract. While the amount is high for an MLS team, the return could be massive for the team and for the league.
Produced in association with Benzinga
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Jessi Rexroad Shull