Business World

Friday 23 February 2018

Spanish football plans to go global and challenge cash-rich Premier League

Messi, left, and Ronaldo
Messi, left, and Ronaldo

Tariq Panja

Spain's football league is considering offers of as much as €35m a season from two potential sponsors of a top division that includes Real Madrid and Barcelona, a league official said.

Long overshadowed by its best teams, La Liga is campaigning to become a global brand like England's Premier League, and its marketing director Adolfo Bara has spent the past year touring much of the world touting for business.

The league will decide whether to accept either of the two offers by the end of July, he said.

Another option is to follow the Premier League and have a so-called "clean brand."

"We still have not decided whether we will name La Liga or not, but fortunately we have two offers on the table," Bara added.

The decision will depend on how much the companies - one Spanish and the other from overseas - will help promote the league outside Spain, he said. The Premier League decided not to replace long-time sponsor Barclays from next season.

Global reach is a new ambition for Spanish soccer.

Until recently, the league's business strategy was deeply provincial, even as its teams consistently ranked among the best in Europe.

Clubs sold sponsorship and television deals individually and shared little revenue.

Top teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona got wildly rich, while smaller teams fell behind, with several close to bankruptcy following the 2008 financial crisis.

Three years ago, a collective-selling agreement was reached, which included TV rights and some sponsorship inventory.

"Is this brand going to help us or not and how much they are going to invest in pushing the league?" Bara said.

The league's previous title sponsorship deal with Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria ended at the end of last season.

La Liga is home to some of the world's top players, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and its teams won both of European soccer's top club competitions - the Champions League and Europa League - last season.

Last week the league announced it had renewed a partnership that will see Nike supply balls through 2019.

This week watchmaker Tag Heuer will be unveiled as the league's official timekeeping partner, Bara said.


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