Earlier this month, the company partnered with US basketball team Golden State Warriors, Nikkei Asian Review reported. The move followed a high-profile deal with Spanish football club F.C. Barcelona back in November of last year.
The team will now wear a red R logo on the left shoulder, following the decision by the NBA to allow teams to sell space on the jersey to brands. The deal will reportedly be worth $60 million over three years and will include the jersey alongside company signage on the team’s training centre.
“We love sports,” CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told ESPN. “There’s a lot of emotion to it - great stories, smiles and tears.”
He added that his ambitions were big: “We want to be a household name like Google and Facebook.
“Our partnership in Barcelona has helped us in Spain, and the Warriors will certainly be a pillar of getting us there in United States.”
According to Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing Group, a sponsorship-evaluation firm, the exposure for the brand should achieve between $32m and $37m of exposure thanks to the profile of the team.
Sports sponsorship has been at the heart of the company’s marketing strategy for well over a decade. In its native Japan, Rakuten founded the Tohoky Rakuten Golden Eagles, a pro baseball team, in 2005. Since then it has sponsored J.League side Vissel Kobe.
While it used to display its logo in Chinese characters for Japanese services, the company has moved over to using Latin script worldwide.
“The sponsorship is helping to boost our brand’s recognition, and people outside Japan are more interested in our services,” Mikitani told reporters at the Warriors partnership announcement.
Rakuten’s Barcelona deal was reportedly worth £200m, a landmark figure second only to Manchester United’s deal with US automaker Chevrolet.
Data sourced from Nikkei Asian Review, ESPN, The Drum; additional content by WARC staff