Lionel Messi unveils Mastercard's new UEFA Champions League mascot kit

February 13, 2023 | London, UK
  • Study by Mastercard reveals one ‘Leo’ born every two hours in UK
  • Opportunity to win priceless experience to ‘Walk Out with Messi’


Lionel Messi today unveiled Mastercard’s new player mascot kit which will be worn by young fans in this season’s UEFA Champions League Knock out Stage, which kicks off on 14th February. In further proof that love for ‘Leo’ extends far beyond the pitch, new research from Mastercard reveals a 350 per cent rise in the popularity of the name ‘Leo’ since Lionel Messi made his professional debut in 2004.

Mastercard analysed two decades of baby name data from the ONS to assess the off-the-field impact of Lionel Messi. Over 77,000 boys and girls in the UK have been called a version of ‘Leo’ since Messi burst onto the sporting scene in 2004, with more than 5,000 babies given the name in 2021 alone. Leo is currently the 6thmost popular boys name in England and Wales, and 3rd in Scotland, up from 57th and 122nd back in 2003.

The name is so popular, that one ‘Leo’ is born every two hours in the UK, and its popularity is set to increase as nearly a quarter* (24 per cent) of people said they would consider naming a future child after the footballing icon in recognition of his recent achievements. Indeed, 34 per cent of parents say Messi is the most inspirational footballer of all time, and 59 per cent agree that he is a positive role model for inspiring determination and dedication.

“Nothing inspires a life-long passion for football quite like a standout experience” said Jeannette Liendo, Senior Vice President Marketing and Communications at Mastercard Europe, “whether that’s watching your team win a nail-biting final, witnessing your favourite player score a worldy, or meeting a footballing hero. That’s why Mastercard is a proud sponsor of the UEFA Champions League player mascots, and why we’re offering one young fan a chance to walk onto the pitch in our new player mascot kit, hand in hand with the most inspirational player of all time.”

The Mastercard player mascot uniform will be worn in all of the remaining UEFA Champions League matches, with a shirt and shorts made exclusively from recycled fabrics, using 90 per cent less water and 70 per cent less energy than virgin polyester, and having a 65 per cent smaller carbon footprint. The bold new design, conceived by Vision of Super, was selected through a Mastercard partnership with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), captures the passion, energy and optimism found in young football fans, as they join their heroes on the pitch.

Lionel Messi commented: “Walking onto the pitch before a UEFA Champions League match is a unique experience. No matter how many times I do it, it never gets old. I am always so happy to share that feeling with the young mascots, and only hope that the experience gives them the belief, in themselves, in the beautiful game, and in the power of chasing their dreams.”

2 in 5 parents (38 per cent) said that they wanted the name they gave their child to be a source of inspiration for them while growing up. With nearly 1 in 5 parents (18 per cent) suggesting they’re more likely to name their child after a celebrity than family member, and a similar number (17 per cent) saying they’d be likely to name them after a sporting figure.

With most kids pretending to be Messi out of any other footballer when playing, Mastercard is giving one lucky fan a chance to walk onto the pitch alongside Lionel Messi at the FC Bayern München vs. Paris Saint-Germain F.C. tie’s return leg on the Wednesday 8th March in Munich. To enter the ‘Walk Out with Messi’ sweepstake, fans in the UK can visit*.

Media Contacts

Emma Harvey, Mastercard
+44 (0) 7595 630021 |
Lauren Jefferys, Mastercard
+44 (0) 7966 308 213 |

About Mastercard (UK)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.