Huawei signs Messi – How to ensure Messi-ah Brand Effect!


Huawei plies Lionel Messi away from Samsung, but they need to think carefully how to leverage him.

News, or maybe rumour, but it seems certain the world’s No.1 footballer is changing phone(s).

We provided our thoughts on the Chinese technology brand’s collaboration with premium camera brand Leica, but even Leica, would admit getting access to the Barcelona FC’s ‘goal machine’ is a serious brand coup.

But this is far from a no brainer in practice – Huawei needs to think very SMARTly about how they leverage Leo at the China and global level.  Read on.


All Smiles – But Huawei needs to use Messi strategically

Which Messi should Huawei use?

When considering how to use a superstar to boost your brand – you must decide what element of their personality to leverage.  Messi is potentially portrayed as a goal machine (achiever), popular guy (friend), an unknown property (the side you never knew) – the possibilities range from the generic (generally overused) to the fresh (generally going to create more engagement).  Compared to other sports celebrity, Messi, is arguably, more private.

David Beckham for example, his story and life is very public, therefore he can be extended to brand’s specific stories.  A good example of this, is how Diageo’s Haig Club has worked with Beckham to connect with the ideas of ‘accessible premium experience’.

With Messi, Huawei need to leverage their lofty investment (six million USD a year) to explore an unseen part of the Argentine’s personality.  Under Armour showed this recently by exposing a more vulnerable side of Michael Phelps – the globe’s most awarded Olympian.   Rather than the idea of perfection, the ad showed Phelps shivering and struggling with this gruelling training to regain form for this year’s Rio Olympics.

SMART suggestions on how Huawei can max brand value on Messi 

  1. Show Messi in a context rarely seen – of him failing.  Not wining a World Cup for his country. Painful, revealing … but closely aligned with Huawei’s own struggles to become a global brand.  In terms of interest and engagement, far more compelling than “Messi shoots, he scores, he wins, he goes home.”
  2. Show Messi’s loneliness as the ‘guy to pass the ball to, when the pressure is on’.   How does he deal with the expectation of ‘always being the hero’ – now that is a compelling and engaging story to tell.
  3. Show where Messi comes from – it can not have been easy to have to move to Spain from Argentina as a teenager, the role of Ronaldinho mentoring him is very popular amongst fans of both players.   Huawei is an underestimated force globally – it feels so was Messi many years ago.  So Huawei’s dreams of global greatness are similar to a teenage Messi – unproven and unknown, but bound for greatness.

OK, Huawei, there are three stellar ideas – suggestive of the creativity and strategic acumen of the SMART team. Book a session for a SMART introduction – live in Shanghai, or Skype anywhere else. It is a SMART move.


Messi was once more vulnerable – The Master Ronaldinho was his mentor


About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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