Sunday Sep 13, 2020
Paris Sain-Germain striker Neymar on Saturday signed an endorsement contract with German sportswear powerhouse Puma as its global poster boy after he decided to part ways with longtime sponsor Nike.
"Welcome to the fam @neymarjr #KingIsBack" Puma tweeted alongside a photo of the striker, kitted out in his new marketing 'club's' clothes.
The world's most expensive player confirmed the sponsorship transfer in an open letter posted on social media.
"I grew up watching videos of great football legends such as Pele, Cruyff, Eusebio and Maradona...who each played in Puma.
"For these reasons, from today onward, I have the honour to unite with the brand that helped the biggest legends of football become what they are," he wrote.
Neither Neymar nor Puma gave details of the length of the contract or how much it was worth.
"Neymar Jr...is an ambassador of the brand on and off the pitch," the company told AFP, emphasising the confidentiality around the contract.
The move represents a significant change for the 28-year-old after leaving Nike, his sponsors since he was a 13-year-old prodigy.
News that a deal had been struck was first published by Brazilian sports site Esporte Interativo, which is known for breaking the story of Neymar's transfer from Barcelona to PSG in 2017.
Citing "exclusive information," it said details on the agreement and Neymar's first promotional appearances for Puma were expected "in the coming days".
Neymar had appeared to drop hints that a deal was close, said Esporte Interativo.
He recently followed Puma, PumaFootball and eight other accounts associated with the brand on Instagram, and posted a picture of himself Thursday with what appeared to be a statue of a puma in the background.
Neymar's last arrangement with Nike was reportedly an 11-year contract up to 2022 worth a total $105 million (88 millions euros).
Forbes magazine, which ranks him the world's seventh highest-paid celebrity, estimates his earnings for this year at $95.5 million, including endorsement deals.
At Nike, the world leading sportswear company with turnover of 39.1 billion euros in 2019, Neymar was one of many headline sports stars like LeBron James, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe.
With his new Puma 'family' he will instantly assume a leading marketing role alongside six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.
For the German firm, whose sales fell by over 16% in the first quarter of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Neymar's capture should pay dividends in the medium term.
Neymar is a fitting replacement to another global sports star in the Puma family but now retired - Usain Bolt.
PSG paid a record 222 million euros for his transfer from Barcelona in 2017.
With his skinny good looks, tattoos, ever-changing hairstyles and huge following on social media, Neymar is one of the biggest names in sports and beyond -- though his brand has been tarnished at times.
On the pitch, critics accuse him of diving in matches. Off the pitch, he has faced accusations of tax fraud and a 2019 rape allegation.
Brazilian police later dismissed the latter case, citing a lack of evidence.
He was forced to miss PSG's Ligue 1 season-opener on Thursday after testing positive for Covid-19 following a holiday in Ibiza after PSG's Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich.
Despite his move, Neymar's links with Nike are not severed completely as he will continue to wear the brand when playing for two of their clients - Brazil and PSG - on the pitch.