What in the World—Week of June 12

Wrexham FC takes flight with United Airlines

Wrexham FC’s ascent through the ranks of British soccer is soaring to new heights, with the Welsh club announcing last week that United Airlines will be its front-of-jersey sponsor for the upcoming season.

The airline replaces TikTok, which had been on the front of the Wrexham jerseys for the past two seasons. Ifor Williams Trailers spent five years on the jersey before the club was acquired by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney and became a global sports and entertainment story.

The new sponsorship deal was announced in typical Reynolds fashion last week, when he tweeted out an image of a Wrexham shirt bearing the words “Wrexham United” to his more than 21 million followers. The image was accompanied by the message “Yes. This. Is. Happening.”

That led to speculation about a possible name change for the 158-year-old club, before Reynolds and McElhenney posted a 60-second video to the official Wrexham FC twitter account explaining what was actually happening.

“When we tweeted Wrexham United, we forgot to include a super-important ampersand,” explained McElhenney, who said that they will “not not, nor will we ever change the name of the club.” United will fly the club to the U.S. for its first-ever matches on U.S. soil this summer.

Messi’s Inter Miami deal includes revenue share with Apple, Adidas

While a group of fictional footballers (led by a quirky coach named Ted Lasso) helped put Apple TV+ on the map, the tech giant is looking to arguably the best footballer in history to help it sell subscriptions to its streaming services—and it’s willing to pay handsomely for the opportunity.

Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi is set to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami this summer, in what is being called an “unprecedented” deal that will see him receive a share of revenues from both Apple and Adidas. Unidentified sources also said he would be given an opportunity to purchase a share of an MLS team when his North American career concludes.

According to Front Office Sports (as first reported by The Athletic), Messi will receive a cut of profits directly from the league’s MLS Season Pass subscription service on Apple TV+, as well as as any increase in Adidas profits resulting from his association with the league.

Apple recently signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion streaming deal with MLS, and fans will be asked to pony up $129 for a full season ($19.99 per month) to see Messi play in North America.

The star reportedly spurned a deal from the Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal worth $386 million per year to play in North America, becoming the latest in a series of players who left European soccer at the tail end of their career to play in North America, including David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Meta working on a Twitter alternative

Meta is preparing what one of its senior executives pointedly described as a “sanely run” alternative to Twitter, says The Verge. Codenamed Project92—with a possible public name of Threads—the new platform will use Instagram’s account system to populate user information.

“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run, that they believe that they can trust and rely upon for distribution,” The Verge quoted Meta’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, as saying.

His remarks were clearly aimed at Twitter owner Elon Musk who has plunged the platform into chaos since acquiring it last year.

Meta’s ambition for the new product is “safety, ease of use [and] reliability,” said Cox, as well as ensuring that creators have a “stable place to build and grow their audiences.” Cox said that the company has already had discussions with high-profile figures including Oprah and the Dalai Lama.

Danone’s UK leader calls for higher taxes on unhealthy food

In a break with food companies’ typical stance, the leader of Danone’s UK & Ireland division is calling for higher taxes on food that is high in fat, sugar, and salt as a way of combating the obesity crisis. According to the most recent Health Survey for England, nearly two-third of adults (64%) were overweight or obese.

Danone UK & Ireland president James Mayer said last week that the U.K. food industry’s efforts to make healthier products are not moving fast enough, reported The Guardian. “We’ve reached a point where meaningful intervention from the government is a necessary course of action,” he said.

“It is time for the government to move from a policy that favours caution to one that sets clear parameters for the industry and consumers as to what constitutes a healthy product,” he said, adding that he sees it as the only way the industry will be motivated to produce healthier products.

At present, most groceries—including ice cream, soft drinks and some cookies—are exempt from VAT, but Danone said the government should consider imposing it on more products.

Danone, which sold its cookies and cereal business to Kraft Food in 2007, said 90% of its UK portfolio by sales volume is not high in fat, sugar, or salt.

Twitch backs off on branded content regulations

You might call it a quick-Twitch reaction. Swift backlash from creators regarding proposed new branded content regulations led Twitch to revoke them the day after they were announced.

“These guidelines are bad for you and bad for Twitch, and we are removing them immediately,” said the Amazon-owned service in a statement last week, as reported by Variety.

Originally set to take effect July 1, the guidelines would have completely banned so-called “burned-in” (in-stream) video, audio and display ads on the platform, and would have restricted on-screen logos to no more than 3% of the screen size.

The statement acknowledged the importance of sponsorships in streamers’ growth and ability to earn income. “We will not prevent your ability to enter into direct relationships with sponsors—you will continue to own and control your sponsorship business,” it said.

The service claims to have paid out more than $1 billion to streamers in 2022, saying it has more than 31 million average daily visitors (with 2.5 million people watching livestreams at any given moment). On a monthly basis, some 7 million streamers go live on Twitch, the company says.

Chris Powell