Keys to understanding the evolution of the football League business

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The announcement of the millionaire agreement between the professional soccer league (LaLiga) and the CVC capital fund could be one of the news of the year in terms of the intersection between economy and sport.

The alliance to promote Spanish football with the injection of 2,700 million euros will allow the consolidation of LaLiga plans, which tries to compete, face to face, with the historical and economic power of the Premier League to become the best football brand in the world. Beyond the final result of the agreement, and especially its small print yet to be deciphered, we can make a first assessment based on the expressions that LaLiga has used in its press release.

First of all, the transformation of elite football into spectacle is non-negotiable for clubs and competitions. Going from a “single product” model, of party and audiovisual rights commercialization, to a “multiproduct and multi-experience” model is key at a time when income diversification is totally necessary, especially now, when there are symptoms that the audiovisual market could reach a saturation point.

The consolidation of LaLiga as a new “entertainment multinational” could already be sensed by other actions of the entity chaired by Javier Tebas, such as the agreements with Port Aventura or the launch of LaLigaSportsTV.

The redefinition of the football business

In this process of redefining the business, digital transformation seems fundamental. The great opportunities, as LaLiga indicates, are on the net. New opportunities to sponsor and capture fans that, for example, have been consolidated with the emergence of the cryptocurrency business or fan tokens, which have become new allies of professional football in Spain. Improving the marketing of the sports product can only be done through digital transformation.

Secondly, and as we already warned at the 1st UVic-UCC Business Marketing and Communication Conference last April, the future of marketing is omnichannel. Also for sports marketing. Omnichannel goes beyond the impact of empathy, where experience is the last territory of brand differentiation.

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This phenomenon tells us about integrating channels from the consumer’s point of view, collecting data, understanding moments and contexts and, above all, triggers that allow us to move consumers from passive to active buyers.

In this way, will Messi play for Barça again?

Third, and thinking about the effects of the injection of 2,700 million euros into Spanish professional football, there is talk of a “multiplier effect” in various senses.

On the one hand, the multiplier effect that having a new direct source of income can have for clubs will make it possible to improve LaLiga’s competitive balance.

Will this be the key for Messi to play with FC Barcelona again? For those who considered that the debate on the competitive balance was not key to understanding the recent tension between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona with LaLiga, the official note suggests otherwise. Making the competition more attractive for the clubs is key to avoiding future flirtations of the greats with other projects such as the European Super League.

In fact, as Marc Menchén explains in his book Futbol i Negoci: el camí de la gespa al monopoly (2021), the CVC capital fund had also been behind possible revisions of the competitive model and projects for new competitions.

Now, LaLiga teams up with one of the great competitors of JP Morgan, supposed financier of the Superliga led by Florentino Pérez. It will be necessary to see if both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, in the medium and long term, will have enough with the money that this agreement can generate or will continue to press the review of the competitive model at European level in search of better growth platforms.

Football as a brand of a country

On the other hand, there is also talk of a multiplier effect for the “Spain brand”. The link that LaLiga makes between the sporting and economic benefits of this alliance with those that the Spanish Government may have, from a diplomatic point of view, when promoting the country internationally is interesting.

Beyond the well-known function that soccer clubs perform as ambassadors of their reference territories, it is still remarkable that LaLiga makes clear in its press release its willingness to be part of the Government’s sports diplomacy strategy. This is a jug of cold water for those who defend that politics and sport have no relationship: The Football League, together with the wines of Rioja or the Costa del Sol are essential assets for the promotion of Spain to the world.

Finally, we can ask ourselves again where professional football is evolving. At other times we have talked about a process of Americanization of European football, following in the wake of the great competitions in the United States, which have commercialized the sport and have turned it into a multiplatform show seven days a week.

But more than an Americanization of European football, it would be more accurate to speak that we are moving towards a disneyisation of football –in the words of sociologist Alan Bryman–, where the processes of theming and hybridization of consumer spaces become essential when we want to move from a model from a “single-product” business to a “multi-experience” business.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.

Xavier Ginesta does not receive a salary, nor does he carry out consulting work, nor does he own shares, nor does he receive financing from any company or organization that can benefit from this article, and he has declared that he lacks relevant links beyond the academic position cited.

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