Brazilian soccer star takes bite of the Chery

Pete Davis has written recently at about how well Brazilians are doing in the Chinese Super League (representing 29% of all foreign players). In this week’s Sports Talk column, I look at how well the Chinese are doing in Brazil:

ImageWhat do Lionel Messi and Neymar have in common? The obvious answer is that they are both among the very best young soccer players in the world, but, off the field, there is now another connection: they have both been sponsored by Chinese automaker Chery.

Neymar has long been expected to move from his native Brazil to a top European side in a multi-million-dollar deal, but, for now, he remains with Brazil’s current champions Santos, who last week signed a sponsorship deal with Chery’s Brazilian operations.

ImageMessi, recently voted the world’s best player for a record fourth consecutive year, had previously signed to become the international face of Chery’s Riich line at the Beijing Auto Show in 2010.

It’s a remarkable coup for China’s sixth largest carmaker, but it’s just the latest in a long line of Chinese companies dipping their toes in the global sports waters.

Last year, five Chinese companies sponsored various Spanish soccer teams, but those deals were made largely in an attempt to impress a sizeable television audience watching back in China, rather than to promote their products to Spanish fans.

ImageChery’s deal with Santos, however, is different. The automaker is China’s largest exporter of cars by some distance, and has already made significant inroads into the South American market. Although the Chery Brazil logo has featured on the front of the Santos shirts for just three games, the company says it is looking to secure a long-term deal.

The front of the Santos shirt is one of the hottest spots in sports right now. Previously known as the club of soccer legend Pele, a worthy successor has finally arrived. Still only 21, Neymar is estimated to be the fifth highest earning soccer player in the world behind David Beckham, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Samuel Eto’o.

But in a sign of his combined appeal and potential, sports business magazine SportsPro last year voted Neymar the world’s most marketable athlete on the planet, beating out Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Usain Bolt and a host of other contenders for the top spot.

The terms of the Santos-Chery deal have not been released, but as long as Neymar stays at the club, Chery is guaranteed fantastic global promotion.

The biggest loser in all of this, though, is Volkswagen, who have a four-year endorsement deal with Neymar himself, but he is now far more likely to be pictured with a rival car company’s name emblazoned on his chest.

One other player should get a mention here: Chinese national Chen Zhizhao, who was initially signed by Brazilian club side Corinthians in a crude attempt to sell merchandise in China, but Chen – known simply as Zizao in Brazil – has proved his worth on the field and recently won his first call-up to the international squad, though he has yet to make his debut for China.


Above article taken from Monday’s Global Times.

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