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Sports Marketing | Aug 27, 2014
The road to Rio 2016

Arguably the most poignant moment in Brazilian striker Neymar’s World Cup arrived when he wasn’t even on the pitch. As the Brazilian national anthem played ahead of the crucial semi-final between the hosts and eventual World Cup winners Germany, stand-in captain David Luiz and goalkeeper Julio Cesar sang to the verge of tears while holding Neymar’s number 10 shirt. Even though Neymar was in the dugout nursing a back injury, the Barcelona star’s name and brand still managed to hog the limelight both in the stadium and on broadcast coverage across the world.

“Not being on the field during that match for Brazil could be an advantage for him, the Neymarketing went on without him when David Luiz and Julio Cesar were holding his shirt during the national anthems. That’s something I’ve never seen before,” Tim Crow, CEO of the Synergy Sponsorship agency and the man who is credited with coming up with the phrase ‘Neymarketing’, told SportBusiness International.

“However, he was probably one of the only winners in Brazil during that semi-final due to the fact that he was not on the pitch. He was performing exceptionally well in what appeared to be a very average team.”

After completing his move to Barcelona in May 2013 and receiving the subsequent exposure playing in Spain’s La Liga and the UEFA Champions League, Neymar’s marketability has gone to a global level, with the player already signing endorsements with sectors as varied as publishing (Panda Books) and toy companies (Gullivers).

Significantly, in June, Neymar’s management company NR Sports also agreed an image rights deal with the newly-established Doyen Group, the sports agency set up Simon Oliveira, who as head of global PR for Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment was one of the key people in David Beckham’s rise to commercial prominence. The deal with Neymar will last until at least 2017 and sees Doyen sign endorsements for Neymar outside Brazil.

Despite his omnipresence at the World Cup, however, there was some criticism that his commercial partners did little in the way of sophisticated activation around the Neymar brand. Crow says that the Brazilian’s new advisors Doyen will be under pressure to think bigger and smarter when the Olympic spotlight shines on Neymar in two years’ time when he is back in Brazil playing for his national team in Rio.

“There is an interesting situation now with Neymar given he has obviously new brand advisors. I think from here on we are going to see two types of work around him: we are going to see the day-in, day-out marketing continue, but they are clearly looking for more global deals on the back of a successful first season with Barcelona and the World Cup,” says Crow. 

“I hope we are going to see companies be more creative with their activations, as to date what we have seen has been pretty rudimentary and the absolute basic insertion of Neymar into their brands. Neymar’s brand is developing in itself. People haven’t seen that much of him yet and obviously there is the language barrier. For Rio 2016 there is the opportunity for him and Brazil to get atonement for what happened in the World Cup, and I imagine quite a few of the global sponsors of the Games, as well as local companies, will be wanting to do their own marketing around him.

“He will be pretty hot. If Jessica Ennis-Hill was the poster girl of London 2012, I think there is a pretty good chance that Neymar will be the face of Rio 2016.”

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