WeChat Makes Move for Global Expansion with Help from Soccer Star

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Tencent’s WeChat, the popular messaging app in China and greater Asia is looking to boost its 300 million registered users with a global campaign—an effort that will get a helping hand from soccer superstar Lionel Messi. 

WeChat, a service similar to WhatsApp, but with video calls, photo sharing, location-based services and other social features more akin to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Skype, has been previously promoted in Thailand, India and Mexico with local celebrities. The latest initiative, however, will roll-out to 15 markets including Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey, with Messi as a global ambassador.[more]

“He’s well known in a lot of markets globally,” company spokeswoman Katie Lee told AdAge. “He is a WeChat user and he’s used the product for a while. He’s always away, playing football everywhere. The commercial highlights (how) he can be connected with family and friends no matter where he is.”

In the first, Messi trades voice messages (in Spanish) with Grandma, trying to quiet his crying infant son and succeeding with soccer juggling tricks, while the second spot shows friends sending Messi good luck wishes as he heads out pushing a baby stroller.

“Our goal was to show Messi in relatable, down-to-earth scenarios so our audience could easily identify with him and his use of the product versus building the more common, larger-than-life concept around him that only puts distance between him, the product and the consumer base,” said Dexton Deboree of Stardust, which created the campaign.

With social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter blocked by China, Tencent has had a unique opportunity to build a solid presence in its home market, where it claims 70 million users. Now, with the global campaign, WeChat hopes to extend those borders beyond the mainland. 

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