Back in January 2013, during a game in the Paulistão championship, Santos came onto the pitch in their trademark black and white shirts, except this time, they bore a subtle yet momentous change: in addition to the sponsor logos, the front and back of the players’ kits displayed the initials INJR – Instituto Neymar Junior (neymaroficial.com), a social project which had been established and launched by the team’s star striker Neymar that same month.
Neymar followed the launch of his institute, which aims to help sectors of the Brazilian population in need through sporting, educational and social activities, with some major moves both on and off the pitch – the virtuoso attacker was able to secure partnerships with NGOs and private businesses before being transferred to Spain’s Barcelona club.
But as the FIFA Confederations Cup kicked off, Neymar has launched his most expressive project yet – The Sede de Vencer (thirst to win) project, which will take drinkable water to around 85,000 Brazilians in five of the tournament’s cities.
The project will donate 850 filters, designed to clean and purify water drawn from the soil, developed by the Waves for Water NGO (wavesforwater.org), which was founded by North American ex-surfer Jon Rose in partnership with the INJR.
He’s still new to the field of social responsibility, but Neymar’s charisma is his greatest asset, and has made him one of Brazil’s most sought after faces in advertising. By using his mass appeal to do good, he may be hitting goals every bit as beautiful as those he famously nets on the pitch.
Despite Neymar’s act of solidarity, the reality is that very few of Brazil’s football stars are committed to their own social projects. Corinthians defender Paulo André, whose IPA institute (institutopauloandre.org.br) seeks to tackle social exclusion in the outskirts of Campinas (SP), and former São Paulo, European and national team players Raí and Leonardo, whose NGO Fundação Gol de Letra (goldeletra.org.br) reaches out to around 1,300 children and young adults through a slew of activities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, may be Neymar’s best role models for the moment.
Nonetheless, the sky’s the limit as Neymar learns how to leverage sports marketing for social good.