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Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani on the power of sport

Member exclusive by Norihiko Sasaki

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten has decided that its future will be decided on the playing field as much as in the marketplace. aggressively in sports business. The company has been making major investments as a sponsor, but also as an owner: In Japan, its soccer franchise Vissel Kobe signed a three-year contract with with Spanish superstar Andrés Iniesta for 10 billion yen ($90m).

Rakuten’s sports investment outside Japan is even more impressive. Starting with the 2017-2018 season, it’s been the main global partner of FC Barcelona, the world-famous Spanish soccer club, with a €220 million ($262m) contract for four years. In September 2017, Rakuten partnered with the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, with a three-year advertising badge deal worth $60 million. Then last September, Rakuten entered a global partnership deal with Spartan Race, a series of obstacle race events, who now includes ‘Rakuten’ in its race titles.

Moreover, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has personally invested in sports. Together with another FC Barcelona star, Gerard Piqué, he founded the sports-investment group KOSMOS, which struck a 25-year partnership deal in February with the International Tennis Federation to manage the Davis Cup.

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