Lionel Messi has followed in the footsteps of the likes of Tom Brady and LeBron James by signing a huge deal to promote cryptocurrency after he agreed to a three-year, $20 million contract with socios.com in what is the latest tie-in between crypto firms and footballers.
Fan tokens are a relatively new form of cryptocurrency which afford buyers a right to vote on club decisions, although these are generally considered to be for very minor issues only.
Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, is no stranger to the world of cryptocurrency after requesting that a portion of his payoff for his move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in August 2021 included crypto payments.
The deal will see him involved in a promotional campaign for the crypto company ahead of this year’s World Cup in Qatar which kicks off in November – but the agreement, which sees Messi listed as an official ambassador for the firm, does not include crypto payments being made to the Argentina captain.
Socios have so far partnered with a range of figures and clubs in the world of football, including formal ties with some of European football’s largest clubs such as Messi’s PSG, Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester City.
In a statement announcing the partnership, Messi said that it was time that fans had more of a say in how their football clubs were run.
“Fans deserve to be recognized for their support. They deserve opportunities to influence the teams they love,“ Messi said.
“Socios.com exists to enhance the fan experience, to enable fans to ‘be more’. I’m proud to join Socios.com’s mission to create a more connected and rewarding future for fans around the world.“
However, not everyone is quite as enthusiastic as Messi about the growing popularity of digital fan tokens.
Many clubs are understood to be enthusiastic about what they see as a potential new revenue stream – but critics have said that measures such as this only serve as yet another method from which to extract more funds from football fans, leading to questions about how impactful fans paying for influence over football club decisions can actually be.
Despite the criticism, some of global sport’s biggest names have been lining up to become involved. NFL star Brady has an equity stake in FTX Trading Ltd in addition to taking on a similar ambassadorial role to the one Messi has accepted.
NBA icon James has signed a long-term deal with Crypto.com – a company which has also officially partnered with FIFA.