World Football Summit looks at how LaLiga has built brand awareness in Asia, five years after the opening of its Singapore office, in March 2017. This article was written by Ganassa and features as part of the latest edition of WFS Digest, our insider’s guide to the latest and most relevant thoughts and practises from within the football industry. You can subscribe to WFS Digest HERE.
Our team had the exclusive opportunity to interview both Iván Codina, Managing Director SEA, Australia, Japan and South Korea at LaLiga, and Alfredo Bermejo, Digital Strategy Director at LaLiga HQ in Madrid, both of whom hold a significant role within the governance of LaLiga branding operations.
EXPORT AND ENGAGE
We live in a time where the value of a football brand is measured, among other things, by the quality of its network with various private, economic and political stakeholders. And, in this context, the competition among the big five European leagues through the rise of television and new digital media in Asia, is at an all-time high.
So, how did LaLiga take the first steps towards creating and increasing awareness? Iván Codina, the first hire for the Singapore branch, told us more about the mission to take LaLiga closer to different stakeholders in Asia.
“Over the first few months, the strategy was about building brand awareness,” said Codina. “In fact, most of the initial conversations locally, needed quite some time to explain what LaLiga was.”
Fast forward five years and the scenario is radically different.
The team headcount has grown to 15, including six employees in Singapore and nine delegates based full-time in the local territories, as part of LaLiga Global Network, the foundation of the commercial success enjoyed by the Spanish League organising body since the launch of the project. In fact, more than 50 delegates work daily across the world, helping bring the league closer to stakeholders and fans; a project of such scale was never seen before by any sport or any league in the world.
THE SECOND-BEST LEAGUE IN YOUR COUNTRY
Codina adds that: “Commercial results are not the main objective, because we believe it is a consequence of the other main strategies that we develop. But undeniably they are also key because they help LaLiga to activate its assets across the region.”
According to Codina, the second main objective is the relationship with public stakeholders.
“We don’t want to compete with the local league,” he said. “LaLiga aims to be the second-best league in the country, only behind the local league. This strategy brings several benefits, most of all the fact that working with the public helps us to develop an understanding of the fans’ behaviour in that market.
“In the end, this will help LaLiga to better position its brand in a single market while contributing by improving the football ecosystem.”
This deep-rooted network in the region allows us not only to capitalise on the popularity of the football sporting event of the year, El Clásico, but also provides visibility to the derbies, rivalries, and stories behind each of the twenty clubs in the league.
Moreover, in order to achieve its mission of bringing a piece of LaLiga and appeal to the fans across Asia, it organises local watch parties.
For instance, a bonfire viewing party was set up for the local fans in Thailand during the match between F.C. Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid in February 2022. This was extremely well received by local stakeholders and sponsors alike because, according to Codina, offline activations of this kind “eventually create a platform for brand engagement and visibility.”
NO FAN IS BETTER THAN THE OTHER
The change in kick-off times towards a more friendly schedule for people living in Asian time zones is a signal of LaLiga’s commitment to its fan communities.
Codina backs this up by saying: “It’s a necessary step because no fan is better than the other, and should be able to enjoy our product. The friendly kick-off times also significantly help to increase the level of popularity, viewership, and engagement of the league, while boosting our internal KPIs.”
There is naturally more demand to consume content related to tier-one clubs, like Real Madrid, F.C. Barcelona and Atlético, but Codina says: ”It’s a wonderful problem to have, when you have in the league, two of the all-time best football institutions in the world. Every league has clubs with bigger histories than others, but in LaLiga the gap between the first tier clubs and the others has reduced considerably, as proven by the recent form of Spanish sides in the Champions League and Europa League.”
#WFSatHome | E09: Ivan Codina@LaLiga managing director for southeast Asia @kudi99 joins @paco_roche to reflect on the lessons learned while filling the void left by the COVID-19 lockdown and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for both the sport and the industry.
— World Football Summit (@WFSummit) May 14, 2020
Although the result on the pitch matters, it’s not enough to attract interest around the smaller clubs, for instance, those involved in the relegation battle. This is the rationale behind the CVC deal, reportedly generating €1.9 billion for a portion of LaLiga’s broadcast revenue and sponsorship rights.
“Every club wants an equal piece of the pie,” Codina explains. “In partnership with CVC, we have designed a program called LaLiga Impulsos (Boost LaLiga), to allocate a considerable part of the revenue for each club, to be used for the development of their brands at international level.”
The way football is consumed is changing rapidly, with more options available for fans to access their favourite content.
In order to stay ahead of the curve for years to come, LaLiga is proactively adapting to new generational trends by listening to its younger audience. A prime example is the establishment of its eSports tournament, eLaLiga Santander, which was developed during the 2017/18 season, in collaboration with Electronic Arts.
We asked Alfredo Bermejo whether he believes that the future of fan engagement in Asia will be linked to the development of metaverse assets.
“Both Metaverse and on-site experiences are important,” said Bermejo. “To all football fans, although how we can leverage the metaverse to give fans a brand-new experience remains to be seen.
“In recent years, we have placed huge importance on our strategy to engage with the young audience as one of the key parts of our growth. With eLaLiga Santander, we aim to take fan engagement into the world of competitive gaming and reach new audiences. Our official Fantasy League game is another example that enables us to extend the match experience throughout the whole week and generate new links with younger fans.”
Content syndication through local influencers is also at the core of the digital strategy. Especially in South East Asia, the focus is on building deep and organic relationships with KOLs, creating capsule content tailor-made for their specific audience and in line with the tone of voice of their channels.
In regards to what the future holds for LaLiga in the region, Bermejo concludes: ”One of our major goals for the upcoming years is to establish a strong relationship with the fans. Firstly, we focus on building and expanding our community, and then we can begin a conversation with those fans, creating a connection with them and, ultimately, obtaining a return on that investment. We have gone from an indirect relationship with the fans to one that is direct.
:And we achieve all this by implementing a content strategy that connects with fans around the world, adds value, and generates interesting content that informs and entertains them. That way we gather knowledge about the fans regarding the content they like the most and methods for converting them into loyal LaLiga fans.”
So far, LaLiga has been successful in growing the fan base and the brand across the Asian region by leveraging from:
- A top-tier competition spearheaded by teams like Real Madrid, F.C. Barcelona, and Atlético de Madrid.
- Adopting a “glocal” approach: Leveraging the power of its global brand and adapting to individual markets.
- Testing new technologies and channels to reach the younger fan.
Over the next couple of months we will deep dive into market-specific actions and try to foresee how La Liga evolves over the next five to 10 years and achieves the next level of growth.
This article was written by Ganassa and features as part of the latest edition of WFS Digest, our insider’s guide to the latest and most relevant thoughts and practises from within the football industry. You can subscribe to WFS Digest HERE.