In times when the Internet did not exist, much less social networks, when the immediacy of information took light years compared to today, and when most photos were limited to black and white, the image of Pelé could transcend any corner of the planet in any way.
His figure became gigantic worldwide for representing, then, the first star of a sport that began to be bigger with him. Winning a World Cup at 17 years old was the beginning of everything. Winning another with 21 had already positioned him in the most glorious pages of football and sport in general without knowing how many more generations were ahead.
In any case, he gained universal popularity thanks to an enormous talent never seen before. With the ball, he amazed locals and strangers. He made soccer a more attractive sport. He made football the king of sports.
And the most powerful brands of that time yearned for his image…
The pact broken by Pelé’s chimpunes
Already consolidated as O’Rei of soccer, money then revolved around him as much as the ball. With Santos -a club in which he won more than 20 titles and celebrated more than a thousand goals-, he made many international tours of America and Europe in the 60’s and 70’s, thus increasing and extending his legend and strengthening his more mercantilist figure. beyond Brazil.
In Peru, for example, they played more than once against Alianza Lima, Universitario, Sporting Cristal, Melgar and Sport Boys. And everyone, then, recognized him as the greatest reference in football; even our same referents of yesteryear. But it is in the World Cups where the image of the Brazilian gained greater value.
For this reason, already entering slightly more modern times, in Mexico 1970 -his last World Cup-, Pelé used his great commercial potential and starred in an advertising strategy in the event that at the time went unnoticed by many, but not by Pumas. and Adidas, who had made a pact with the Brazilian star in the middle.
The brothers Rudi and Adi Dassler, owners of both companies respectively, signed a non-aggression treaty in order to avoid any trade war during the 1970 World Cup. The two agreed not to carry out any type of action with Pelé, the star of the tournament.
However, one of the brothers broke that pact. It was Rudi, or rather Puma (which is the same at the end of the day). During the World Cup event, this sports brand managed to convince O’Rei to leave the modest brand that sponsored him (Stylo) and, then, wear the feline company’s slippers in front of everyone: the popular Puma King. So it was.
In the quarterfinals against nothing more and nothing less than Peru, Pele leaned out onto the pitch to lace up his boots before kickoff, and immediately all cameras were on his hands and booties.. The Puma logo, then, became visible throughout the world thanks to the Brazilian.
He repeated this same gesture in the final against Italy, asking the referee to stop the actions so he could tie his toes. For Puma it meant an increase of more than 30% in its sale of sneakers; For Pelé, for his part, his simple marketing action earned him $120,000 in income as an extra bonus to his third world consecration.
Thus, in addition, the conflict between Pumas and Adidas was born, which continues more than fifty years later. The relationship was broken, then, by the chimpunes of a legend that was unaware of the pact behind between two brothers.
An advertising genius to the end
Since that time, O’Rei has not tired of pocketing money thanks to his fortified commercial image. And it is that he not only took it upon himself to be a genius on the pitch, but also off it.
Everyone, at the time, knew Pelé. Because they enjoyed it or because they heard about it. In fact, the current generations praise him without even having seen him play. His mark on football is therefore indelible. But not only that.
The Brazilian, for what he represented and still represents, has maintained ties not only with sports brands, but also with other firms in the banking, pharmaceutical, airline, food, and video game sectors, among others, throughout his life. He even starred in a popular Viagra commercial 20 years ago. Advertising stuff.
Likewise, Pelé had endless facets in his 82 years of life. He was not only a footballer, but he also experimented as a businessman, singer, actor (he participated in 10 films) and even a politician after hanging up his chimpunes. The image of him transcended everywhere.
That is why he made more fortune off the pitch than on it. His contracts as a footballer of his are absolutely nothing compared to the advertising contracts he generated with his powerful figure.
“I didn’t get rich with football like today’s players do. I earned money from advertising, when I stopped playing, but none from tobacco, alcohol, politics or religion.”, confessed more than once the Brazilian star. And nothing more true than reality.
December 29Pelé departed and left a net worth in excess of one hundred million dollars, according to the portal ‘Celebrity Net Worth’. A wealth as eternal as himself.
I have worked in the news industry for over 10 years. I have a keen interest in sports and have written for many different publications. I am currently working as an author at 24 News Recorder. I cover mostly sports news but also write about other topics such as current affairs and politics. I have a strong interest in social media and how it can be used to engage with audiences.