PSG’s inevitably losing communication
The end of the summer mercato marked PSG’s definitive defeat in their much-publicized tug-of-war with Kylian Mbappé. You can’t attack an icon with impunity. For forgetting this, PSG had to capitulate to the wishes of its star player. He will not renew his contract early, will play the whole season for the club’s first team and will leave in July 2024, without any transfer compensation. A real industrial disaster for the club, given his purchase price in 2017-2018 and, above all, his potential value in 2023. It’s true that 12 years after its takeover by Quatar Sports Investment, PSG’s image, and above all that of its directors, is at an all-time low. They were bound to lose the media battle that began in June and became a summer soap opera. For three reasons.
Your promises commit you, not keeping them condemns you.
On the one hand, Kylian Mbappé has more than lived up to the promise of his sporting performance since joining the club in 2017, with 212 goals and 83 assists in 260 games, earning him four UNFP trophies for best player in the league in just six seasons and the top scorer in PSG’s history. Not to mention his performances for the French national team. On the other hand, for the last 12 years, Qatar Sports Investment has been failing to achieve its publicly hammered objective, season after season, of winning the Champions League, the competition that marks the difference between “Europe’s big boys” and the rest. 30 trophies, including 9 French league titles, and the passage to the next level are not enough to protect the image of the club’s directors, who are criticized for their inconsistency, the merry-go-round of coaches and player recruitment that is more a matter of communication and merchandising than a team development strategy.
Knowing how to adapt to your target audience, not to do so is to fail.
PSG wanted to repeat with Kylian Mbappé in 2023 the tactics they adopted with Adrien Rabiot in 2019. Adrien Rabiot, a midfielder trained at PSG and also a French international, who has always had a complicated relationship with his club, is refusing to extend his contract so that he can leave for free at the end of the season. His parent club, which would be deprived of a potentially lucrative transfer, decided to banish him from the first team and launch an unrestrained media offensive against him, focusing on his “lack of loyalty”. And it worked. Rabiot spent six months on the bench, and his debut at his new club was particularly laborious.
But Adrien Rabiot was neither so close to perfection in terms of sporting performance, nor untouchable in terms of reputation. His refusal in May 2018 to play as a substitute for the French national team ahead of the World Cup in Russia had reinforced his image in the media and on social networks as an arrogant, pretentious player. Quite the opposite of the image Kylian Mbappé has built for himself.
Communication is the art of getting others to speak well of you.
Since 2017 and his revelation to the general public, Kylian Mbappé has maintained an almost perfect image. That of a simple, down-to-earth young man from a working-class suburban town who knows where he comes from (to the point of forgetting that he was the son of teachers and went to a private secondary school) and who would now be an example for young people: his live interviews on TF1 in 2022 and on France Télévision in 2023 are models of the genre! And Kylian Mbappé’s now political, or rather societal, stances contribute to this: on the death of young Nahel, the murder of Samuel Paty, racist insults suffered by other players, etc., Kylian Mbappé’s tweets are skillfully written, can exceed 100 million views and are generally very positively received.
Even better: it’s now the others who praise and defend Kylian Mbappé. The Abbé Pierre Foundation has been praising Mbappé’s discreet commitment to charity since 2020. It’s two Presidents of the Republic, the current and the former, Nicolas Sarkozy, who boast of talking to him on the phone to convince him to stay in Paris. The Minister for Sport and the Mayor of Paris, for once in agreement, publicly offered him their support against PSG.
Kylian Mbappé is patiently building up an aura almost equivalent to that of a head of state, if not greater because it is more consensual. This ranges from prestigious sponsorship contracts (Hublot, Dior, etc.) to a visit worthy of a real head of state to Cameroon (his father’s country of origin) last July, not to mention committed, even Charles de Gaulle-type speeches, such as when he extended his contract in 2022 (“I said yes to France and to a new PSG project. I felt the call of the homeland and the capital”).
In communications, too, soccer is much more than a sport.