Soccer star Lionel Messi has agreed to serve as the brand ambassador of Hard Rock Cafe for the next five years, becoming the first athlete to collaborate with the chain in the process.
The tie-up comes as Hard Rock, which operates 240 venues, marks 50 years since the brand opened its first site.
It has since gone on to become one of the most globally-recognised companies in the world and is active in 70 countries.
The partnership gives a nod to Hard Rock’s roots, as the brand’s world-famous t-shirts came to fruition when the original London cafe sponsored a local football team in the early 1970s.
The team jersey featured the simple Hard Rock logo and when surplus shirts were returned to the cafe they were given away to loyal customers.
Eventually the restaurant had to set up a separate concession stand to handle T-shirt sales. To this day, Hard Rock’s Classic T-shirt remains an integral part of the brand’s identity.
As part of the new partnership, Hard Rock has unveiled a new collection of merchandise inspired by its new ambassador.
In addition to the special 50th anniversary logo, the garments show some of the Argentinean star’s most characteristic symbols, such as the lion, the number 10 and his own logo.
CEO Jim Allen said: “Over the past five decades, the Hard Rock brand has grown to become one of the world’s most recognisable and beloved brands, with a cafe, hotel or casino located in 68 countries. As we reached our 50th anniversary milestone, we knew that we needed to partner with an icon to help us celebrate in a new and unexpected way, and there was no better choice than the legendary Lionel Messi.”
Hard Rock, which owns 86,000 pieces of music memorabilia, has presented Mr Messi with a custom-made electric guitar. A replica of the instrument, signed by the player, will be displayed at one of its restaurants.
Mr Messi said: “Sports and music are an integral part of my life, a perfect combination between my profession and my leisure time. Uniting both is a great success, and I am very happy that they have counted on me for this special outcome. It is an honour to be the first athlete to partner with a brand who has a history of teaming with music legends.”