Neymar Jr is one of the premiere soccer players in the world, and he’s also one of the most celebrated stars in the world of social media.
The Brazilian professional footballer who captains his national team and plays for Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga league is now focusing on his other competitive passion, poker, joining PokerStars to become the site’s newest brand ambassador.
“Poker is a huge passion of mine. It allows me to express myself away from the pitch (the soccer field), and I love any chance to outwit my opponents, show my skills, and beat the competition,” Neymar says of the endorsement.
Although he’s just 23, his flashy dribbling skills, raw speed, and strong scoring ability has received critical acclaim from notable legends.
Fellow Brazilian soccer player and Team PokerStars member Ronaldo, a retired footballer who scored 15 World Cup goals, says Neymar will one day “be the best in the world.” PelÃ©, perhaps the most iconic soccer player of all-time and another fellow countryman, said Neymar is “an excellent young player.”Â
They aren’t the only ones taking a liking to Neymar and becoming fans. Online, he has more than 18 million Twitter followers and 51 million Facebook likes.
“Neymar Jr is a young and extremely charismatic megastar who loves interacting with fans on social media, is comfortable on camera, and loves the game of poker,” said David Baazov, CEO of PokerStars’ parent company Amaya.
So what’s in it for a man whose contract pays him nearly $10 million a year and receives millions more in endorsements? It’s a chance to unite with Ronaldo, a man he looked up to as a youth, as well as the other Team SportStars members, a group of elite athletes who share an interest in poker.
In addition to Ronaldo, he joins tennis great Rafael Nadal, Olympic field hockey gold medalist Fatima Moreira de Melo, and cross-country gold medal Olympian Marcus Hellner.
The agreement also gives Neymar an opportunity to play the game on the world’s biggest stage. “I want to push myself against the world’s best players. I want to experience the thrill of PokerStars games and see if I can win poker’s biggest prizes,” Neymar explained.
PokerStars has always sponsored the game’s leading professionals, but it seems as if the network is making a concerted effort to appeal to a new audience of players through endorsing more widely known celebrities.
This week, much speculation surfaced that Neymar colleague and fellow La Liga superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was nearing a deal with PokerStars, although there’s been no official word out of either camp.
For PokerStars interim CEO Michael Hazel, marketing internationally known stars is a sound strategy for growth. “Neymar Jr is one of the brightest stars in the sporting world and PokerStars is proud to be associated with him.”
“Together we will grow the popularity of poker and show new audiences the competitive, fun and strategic game of poker. Working with Neymar Jr continues PokerStars’ history of investing in mainstream athletes who want to leverage their success in competitive sports to become successful poker players.”