DOUALA, Littoral—Imagine football superstar Samuel Eto’o expressing shock that you are not an MTN Cameroon subscriber, subtly suggesting you are a loser because of that.
A barrage of ads released by the mobile telephone giant over the past several days has done just that, including associations of some of the footballers’ superstar traits with the MTN brand.
Indeed, the former Indomitable Lions’ captain is the new MTN brand ambassador. In the role, Eto’o will “lend his image” to MTN advertising campaigns and participate in the company’s youth initiatives.
MTN announced the partnership on Tuesday; days after Eto’o appeared in several of the company’s adverts splashed across social media and other digital platforms.
“The partnership between MTN and Samuel Eto’o is a natural blend of the two biggest prides of Africa,” MTN said in a statement. “Samuel Eto’o is the best African footballer of all times, and an icon loved and respected worldwide.”
Eto’o currently plays for Antalyaspor A.S in Turkey.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has named him African Footballer of the year four times. The centre forward has won two African Nations Cups with Cameroon and was part of the Cameroon team that won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
“Samuel ETO’O is a footballer who has practically won everything both individually and as a team,” said Philisiwe Sibiya, the chief executive officer of MTN Cameroon.
“He has made [all] of Africa and beyond to dream thanks to his talent.
“MTN is an indisputable leader that offers innovative and affordable solutions to make the daily lives of the population brighter. It is therefore normal that these examples of African success blend to further inspire the Youth to dream big, believe in their dreams and give themselves the means to realize their dreams.”
Crowds turned out in the streets of Douala Tuesday, as the superstar made his way through the city for the signing of the partnership.
“Born in a continent where opportunities are scarce, I had to look beyond the obstacles of my daily life to dream big,” Eto’s said.
“And today, I am proud to associate my image with a company that makes the entire Africa, my country and compatriots to dream.”
The partnership is a move that will help MTN keep a large chunk of the telecoms market, which it is already expanding after becoming the “first and only” company to run a 4G LTE data network.
In easily it’s most aggressive campaign yet, MTN is not only going after first time subscribers but is urging its competitors’ customers to switch to its 4G network.
It has come up with a lineup of data offers that the company’s competitors, who have been slow to introduced 4G data services, will find hard to catch up with.
MTN said the deal reflected its own ambition “to attain excellence”.
“Samuel ETO’O symbolises excellence,” it said in a statement.
“He is a tireless competitor who has achieved all his dreams as an athlete, by believing in his potential and giving himself the means to always go farthest and be the best.
“MTN Cameroon wants to endorse this self-sacrifice, this innate ability and this passion for hard work which have enabled Samuel ETO’O to achieve extraordinary performance.”
The goal it seems, is to make Eto’o synonymous with MTN, just as the company has successfully done with the colour yellow. It has deliberately drawn parallels between the rise of the footballer with that of the company.
“The story of this young African, who began from nothing to become, thanks to hard work, one of the best players in the world, is just like that of MTN, company created in Africa by Africans, which has succeeded to impose itself as telecommunications leader in Africa, and one of the world references of an industry driven by the most advanced technologies,” the MTN statement announcing the partnership said.
Eto’o is not new to corporate endorsements.
While most of his revenue comes from playing football (salaries and winnings), he earns handsomely from the use of his reputation by companies.
In 2014, Forbes estimated that the footballer, who had earned about 13.3 million dollars, made three billion dollars (about 1.7 billion francs, current exchange rate) from endorsements.