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5 breakout football stars in 2022 that will make great brand ambassadors

Who are the next generation of Messis and M'bappes when is comes to being brand ambassadors?

This year has been a feast for football fans. The Women’s Euros saw the Lionesses bring a national trophy back to England for the first time in 56 years. Plus, after all the off the pitch controversies the World Cup in Qatar brought us arguably the most entertaining World Cup final in history.

While the headlines have been dominated by Messi, our man Raian Sharma takes a look at the breakout stars who burst onto the scene in 2022 and examine how brand can work with these kinds of athletes to tackle their business challenges.

For all the talk of protest and boycotting the tournament, brands found you can still leverage this level of engagement and make the tournament period a hugely valuable moment to connect with consumers. Using athletes around the event helped the likes of Nike, Adidas and even Apple TV’s Ted Lasso to gain traction and entice potential customers.

Global events remain a huge opportunity for companies to take advantage of as billions of viewers tune in to watch these matches. Likewise athlete ambassadors can allow brands to reach a new target market through clever content and their engaged social followings.

So let’s take a look at the ballers who burst onto the scene last year, and see what brands can learn from their rise to the top.

1) Sofyan Amrabat

The Lowdown: The Moroccan defensive midfielder was an integral part of his well-drilled team’s incredible run to the semi-finals. Beating giants Spain and Portugal on the way, ‘The Atlas Lions’ really were the surprise package of the tournament. He flew under the radar playing for Florentina, however due to his leadership capabilities, composure on the ball and grit in high pressure moments, Amrabat displayed exceptional performances and was named in Sky Sports’ team of the tournament.

The Angle for Brands: The Moroccan team really captured the imagination of not only their country but Africa and Arabic nations as well. Businesses looking to partner with Amrabat will see this as a good way to expand into African markets. When an athlete overachieves, any product associated with the player can gain significant exposure due to the bond fans have with the individual. Amrabat is a role model to many African teenagers. They want to act and be like him. Brands should tap into this as his image is hugely relevant and his name is at the tip of consumers tongues. He exudes this ‘never say die’ attitude that can improve a brand’s equity and strengthen the emotional connection between consumers and the brand.

2) Emi Martinez

The Lowdown: Emi Martinez played a vital role in helping Argentina’s victory in the World Cup, saving penalties from Kingsley Coman and Kolo Muani. He chucked the ball away as a part of his mind games with Aurelien Tchouameni, leading to the French player dragging his penalty wide. His over-the-top celebrations after winning the Golden Glove have gone viral after he placed it on his genital area towards the French fans.

The Angle for Brands: It’s never too late. For all his histrionics during penalty shootouts, there is a story of determination to Martinez. First called up to the national squad in 2011, he had to wait a decade to make his international debut. In his first tournament in 2021, he won the Copa America after Argentina beat Brazil in the final where he produced penalty heroics to get them over the line.

From spending so much time at the back burner at Arsenal to becoming a World Cup champion, this storyline can make for a compelling marketing campaign.

If brands are looking for a clean-cut reputation, Emi Martinez is probably not the athlete for them due to his wild antics. But Martinez would be suited to edgier and more daring companies, those who aren’t afraid to court some controversy to capture attention. Martinez proved that being outrageous on the pitch can lead to success, will brands be as brave?

3) Beth Mead

Lioness star Beth Mead in action
England's Beth Mead went on to scoop BBC Sport's Personality of the Year

The Lowdown: Beth Mead lit up the European Championships by scoring 6 goals and assisting 5 times. She deservedly won the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament. Keen WSL fans would have known about Mead prior to 2022 as she has been performing consistently for several years. She has won England’s Young Player of the year twice. Recently, she became the first women to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.

The Angle for Brands: Women’s football is only going to get bigger. The popularity of the sport continued to grow hugely, giving it the limelight, it warrants. Brands will want to partner with Beth Mead to support women’s football but also to be part of its rise. Whilst we have seen big brands such as Barclays, Lucozade and Vitality inject money into the sport, it is still nowhere near as saturated at men’s football. In addition the WSL is in its second season of free to air coverage, offering significant exposure for brands.

In addition to her on-field prowess, Mead’s openness about her sexuality and work to reduce the stigma of the LGBTQ+ in men’s football gives brand a significant reason to partner with her. By endorsing Mead brands can genuinely show their support for serious societal issues. Sadly, significant misogynistic attitudes towards women’s football still exist as a study by Durham University highlighted last year. [1] Can advertising help to address this bias? The likes of BT/EE have already been prominent in tackling the issue, will more brands follow suit?

4) Josko Gvardiol

The Lowdown: Josko Gvardiol elevated his status at this tournament and proved he can compete at the highest level, even at only 20 years old. Despite breaking his nose and injuring his eye shortly before the tournament, Gvardiol was at the heart of Croatia’s success thanks in part to a distinctive face mask. He helped Croatia achieve the Bronze medal scoring the opener against Morocco. He struggled to stop Messi in the semis, though we will not hold it against him since he was against one of the greatest footballers of all time!

The Angle for Brands: Get in at the ground floor. Even at such a young age, Gvardiol is hot property. Courted by the biggest names in European football, his star is set to shine brighter. Brands who have the foresight to back a player before their meteoric rise can profit in the short term as well as the long term.

5) Yunus Musah

Musah on the attack during FIFA World Cup 2022
US Star Yunus Musah in action against Wales

The Lowdown: Valencia’s Yunus Musah has gained serious recognition after this World Cup. He was a standout performer in the robust US midfield that England struggled to break down. Going toe to toe with Bellingham and Rice, he took his chance to shine. He spent 7 years at Arsenal’s Hale End academy with the likes of Bukayo Saka, before moving to Spain. He represented England at youth level, before switching to play for the United States.

The Angle for Brands: Brands should act quickly to gain a first mover advantage and partner with Musah, as he is hot property. As soccer continues to grow Stateside, US companies can use his unique story of picking the United States over England as a way of growing their brand. Brands can leverage ambassadors like Musah relationships with fans to deepen their touchpoints as he is known to be a funny and social personality off the pitch. The right type of brand should mirror his youthfulness, enthusiasm, and work ethic to be authentic and see meaningful impact.

By Raian Sharma


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