Rafael Nadal Exits Team SportStars; Focus on Neymar Jr. And Ronaldo
Three years after inking a sponsorship deal with the world's largest online poker site, Spain's tennis legend Rafael Nadal and PokerStars decided to go separate ways.
The news came on the heals of PokerStars signing snowboard champion Zoe Gillings-Brier on Oct. 5, with the Isle of Man Olympic Snowboard Cross champion becoming the last addition to the room's Team SportStars.
"Rafa Nadal has played an important role for our brand and while his time as a member of Team PokerStars SportsStars has concluded for now, we remain close to him and his team," a PokerStars representative told PokerNews on Monday.
Our current focus in on working with Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr.
During his time with PokerStars, Nadal took part in a number of popular initiatives like a special heads-up event against Vanessa Selbst during the 2014 European Poker Tour Grand Final, and a charity match named billed "The Duel" held at London's Hippodrome Casino, where he confronted Brazilian football legend Ronaldo.
Although he may not have been the most active ambassador of the poker room, back in December 2013 Nadal also managed to earn his first international poker result by winning the EPT Charity Challenge organized by PokerStars during that year's EPT Prague.
As confirmed by a PokerStars representative, now that Nadal is no longer part of the SportStars Team, the poker room plans to shift its marketing initiatives from tennis to football and make the most of the two biggest stars in the team: Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr..
"Our strategy and work with Rafa has led our strategy to evolve, and consequently, our current focus in on working with Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr."
The decision to focus primarily on the two football players became clear already in August, when PokerStars announced "the biggest PokerStars marketing campaign in history" with Neymar Jr. and Ronaldo appearing in a series of video ads that were distributed via Facebook to the players' fanbase of over 150 million people.
Even after Nadal's departure, the PokerStars' Team SportStars is no short of top names, as it still features Brazil's football champions Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima and Neymar Jr., Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Dutch field hockey Olympic gold medalist Fatima Moreira de Melo, Sweden's cross-country skiing Olympic gold medal winner Marcus Hellner, and snowboard champion Gillings-Brier.