Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten has expressed interest in securing the naming rights of Barcelona’s home stadium Camp Nou. Rakuten is already an official shirt sponsor of the Spanish top-flight club.
The reigning La Liga Champions Barcelona are on the verge of securing a huge chunk of investment for ‘Espai Barça’ – renovation and expansion project of Camp Nou from Rakuten, according to various Spanish media reports.
Rakuten owner Hiroshi Mikitani, according to the reports, has apparently been very pleased with ROIs generated from the partnership with Barca and is also looking forward to extend the deal to include naming rights of the re-modelled Nou Camp, in a bid to take the Japanese brand to the next level internationally.
Back when the Espai Barça project was approved in April, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said that naming rights could bring in as much as half of the costs for the development project estimated at €600 million ($702.8m), valuing the potential Rakuten title sponsorship at around €300 ($351.4m) million for a minimum 20-year deal.
Spanish Sports Daily Mundo Deportivo has reported that the club is reluctant to sign such a large deal for the new project with an existing sponsor but are aware of Rakuten’s interest and will wait and see what kind of offer the Japanese company comes forward with. The company is eyeing on commercial opportunities such as concerts planned in both the Nou Camp and the planned Palau Blaugrana mini-stadium.
Rakuten already pays Barcelona €58 million ($67.9 million) a year for the shirt sponsorship deal. The deal, being the fourth most expensive shirt sponsorship in the history of club football, was signed last year and will run through 2020-21.
Barça legend Andres Iniesta is set to join Vissel Kobe, the Japanese top-tier outfit owned by Rakuten. Gerard Pique’s investment company is also linked to the Japanese e-commerce company through their investment in the revamped Davis Cup tennis tournament. Rakuten even signed on as a sponsor for Shakira’s world tour. The Colombian popstar is of course Pique’s long-term partner.