Intellectual property: what is the value of Messi in the era of "Fan Tokens"?

This virtual currency, available for purchase by fans, will be fungible and exchangeable for products in the French club store

The news caused a stir: on July 1, after having belonged to FC Barcelona (Barça) for more than 20 years, Lionel Messi he became a free agent. He would no longer wear the Barça shirt that identified him with the number 10, the one that was known to be the best-selling of the club, exceeding the sales of all the rest by 70% (and that, for the same reason, was the most falsified).

What will become, then, of the shirts and other official items alluding to Messi that are still for sale, now that the player is no longer signed at the club? The answer is found in the “sell off” clause that contracts commonly have and that grants the institution three months of grace from the termination of the agreement to market and remove from inventory everything that identifies with the player.

Thus, Barça could sell until October 1 all lionel related merchandise. After that date, he was unable to do so or could incur some type of infringement, except in the case of a special edition product or in honor of his now “historic” former captain, in which case it would have to be negotiated independently.

According to the study carried out by Brand Finance, the departure of Messi could represent for Barcelona a loss of 11% of the 1,266 million euros of its brand value, that is, about 137 million euros, 77 million of which correspond to commercial income; 17 million to income from the sale of tickets and consumables by fans on match day and results on the field of play (for winning a national title or Champions League); and some 43 million to sales of t-shirts and merchandising.

Of course, the signing in the Paris Saint Germain FC (PSG) will now result in certain profits for this club, which exceed sports and can be glimpsed from the moment the Argentine arrived in Paris and went out to greet wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “ICI C’ES PARÍS” (here is Paris, evoking the slogan of PSG fans “This is Paris”), which raised sales of the garment almost immediately.

Curiously, the phrase had also been the target of conflict in terms of intellectual property: it was in dispute with the fans, who had registered it years ago, and although the club tried to buy it, no agreement was reached. However, it is currently an official PSG brand, which does not prevent it from being sung in the stands.

Already with the number 30, Messi will play for PSG for at least two seasons according to his contract, which also includes a portion of payment in cryptocurrencies “Fan Tokens” whose value varies depending on demand. This virtual currency, available for purchase by fans, will be fungible and exchangeable for products in the club store.

In addition, its possession from certain amounts will enable fans to participate in certain decisions within the club, such as the choice of the best player or the design of the uniforms. In this way we can see how the value of the PSG brand will also increase through these digital assets.

Messi left the 10 of Barcelona for the 30 of PSG.

Messi’s personal brand

The talent and titles obtained by Messi on the courts have led him to make his name become his personal brand, although in Europe his registration was not without some difficulties either.

In 2011 a Spanish cycling company opposed the granting of the “MESSI” brand based on its “MASSI” brand, arguing that the names were too similar and would cause confusion among consumers.

However, after a long dispute of seven years, the Court of Justice of the European Union determined that the footballer was known enough that there was no possible confusion.

Regarding the right of commercial exploitation of your image, in general, when a footballer signs a contract with a club, this right is transferred to him in the field of professional and sporting activity that he performs, forcing himself to wear, in the case of Messi, the colors of PSG and the sponsors of the same club. However, in your private and personal life you have the freedom to use your image for the purposes that it wishes, unless there is a different agreement between the parties.

Messi’s positioning goes beyond being one of the best players in the world, having his own brand and the value of your image, as it also has at least 13 sponsor brands, among which Adidas and Huawei stand out as the ones that generate the most profits. In other countries, such as United States of AmericaSome of its sponsors are Gatorade, Pepsi and Mastercard.

The dimension of the value generated by this character is even reflected in the show presented by Cirque du Soleil, “Messi 10”, which began at the end of 2019 in the city of Barcelona and offers an artistic proposal inspired by football. With the change of club and city, it will be interesting to see the contractual and legal implications in relation to this event, as well as glimpse its reinvention.

Mariza De La Mora: Messi in his private and personal life has the freedom to use his image for the purposes he wishes

Mariza De La Mora: Messi “in his private and personal life has the freedom to use his image for whatever purposes” he wishes.

How could it be otherwise, the image of the idol also landed in the world of digital art and Tokens No Fungibles (NFT), with the creation of the “Messiverse”, which brings together works by artist and designer BossLogic that represent highlights of his career.

Finally, an aspect that is much more known to all but no less important are the related transmission rights. These not only generate most of the income for football clubs but they are what make it possible for us to continue enjoying their goals from the comfort of our homes, anywhere in the world.

ClarkeModet Legal Services Consultant.

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