The Spanish football league La Liga has been slow to reach internationalization, canceling rights contracts with major distributors in the US and Asia, and increasing its global team from 60 to 600 within a few years. The new marketing director recently met with The Drum to explain the plans for the region.
In America, La Liga has moved fast. Last year, a $ 10 million joint venture with Relevent sports marketing agency was established to create more of their own social media content and hold their own live events to gain a stronger foothold in the marketplace.
This is all in preparation for what the League expects, a lucrative battle for the rights to broadcast its football matches in North America.
The approach in the east, however, was less aggressive.
Currently only 13 people work in the league in Southeast Asia. Five are located in their 18-month-old headquarters in Singapore. The others are positioned in their key markets and are supported by representatives in Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, China and Dubai.
Russell Tan directs marketing for Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Australia. In this relatively new position, he took responsibility for marketing and communications, broadcaster relationships, activations, events and other special projects such as e-gaming.
He says that Asia was a key market for La Liga outside Spain, but its strategy is much less intense than that of its American counterpart.
This is partly due to its longstanding relationship with a major channel in the region, BeIn Sports, which has recently extended its three-year deal with the 2015 League. This contract will last until 2022.
“We have the closest relationship with a broadcaster in one of the markets,” Tan recently told The Drum. This means that it is less about scaling the brand and the regional audience in a short time. Instead, Tan is focusing on a long-term campaign to get more people interested in football.
“Our approach is simply to develop the standard of football and become the second league behind the domestic leagues. This is very different from what the other leagues or clubs are doing. Essentially, we want to share knowledge and apply what we know locally, “he said.
“So we’re doing a lot of interesting things that are not necessarily about football. We think outside the box and see what works. “
In Singapore, for example, La Liga has teamed with the Renault Formula One (F1) team to win more motor sport fans in football.
A special passion for Tan is the decision of the APAC team to spend more time in schools to get children interested in football at an early age.
“Although Singapore is football crazy, we lose a lot of teens. So we go to different schools, high schools, and high schools to talk about topics (such as bullying, poverty, and shared stories of players and clubs, “he said.
Or use the sponsorship of Sitex, Singapore’s consumer electronics fair. A strange affair on the surface, but Tan explained that tech fans have a higher propensity to be football fans and opted for the sponsorship deal to promote the BeIn Sport OTT platform to the La Liga games to reach.
In the few markets where BeIn is not a rightholder, La Liga also experimented with the transfer of their games. In India, a deal with Facebook was signed that allowed the social network to send out all matches in the feed.
Tan declined to comment on how successful the test was, but said the group was now “interested in exploring such offers.”
All of this helps to simply improve brand awareness and not the price of its rights (though that will come). However, a side effect was that the advertiser has the power to strike on the side.
La Liga As A Brand Hunting More Advertisers
La Liga is now hunting for more advertisers who come on board as sponsors. Brands offer one of the biggest sources of revenue in the region. However, the challenge is to ensure that there is enough content to move around without affecting your relationship with BeIn Sport.
Tan said he signed a fantasy football app called Sports Hero in Indonesia last season next season, which will expand to include Thailand and Australia.
“Brands want to complete more APAC-wide deals,” he said. “In China, 24 million people have seen a game, brands come to us because they want to reach a larger audience, they do not just want to work with a club, they want the reach we can give, we do not have it yet deals have been completed, but we have had many discussions, and we are getting closer to this point. “
Unilever is so far the only partner that comes close to a deal of this magnitude.
After a global partnership in 2018, Tan’s team worked to leverage the reach of La Liga in the market for young teens to promote the Clear Haircare brand. So far, it focused on “content” and activation for the local market. Tan said the coming season is about to accelerate, and the La Liga brand will appear in Unilever’s packaging designs, point of sale, and TV ads. “
Although Tan is a slow and consistent approach to building the name La Liga in the region, he is beginning to differentiate himself from his competitors.
“When we started, it was clear that this was an English Premier League dominated market, but there has been a shift towards us. EPL is very club-led and has many commercial partnerships, but the league is about bringing [clubs] together, “he said.
“One of the most important things is the AV rights. Domestic transmission rights increased by 30% at the end of last season. So that shows that what we did last year worked.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in social media followers, broadcasters are on and stadium visits are in sight, and people are traveling to Spain more,” he added.