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Volume 22 No. 27
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La Liga, RSG want to boost U.S. profile of Spanish clubs

La Liga and Relevent Sports Group are launching a series of events to better introduce the Spanish league clubs beyond Barcelona and Real Madrid to the North American audience.

The series, titled Breakfast with La Liga, launched last week in New York, where senior executives from the two biggest clubs in Seville, Real Betis and Sevilla FC, met with a group of more than 30 members of the media and other potential partners and discussed their clubs, their city, their efforts to broaden their outreach to the U.S., and the intense rivalry that comes alive in their annual matchups, known as El Gran Derbi.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have long been the most popular La Liga teams, but there are 18 others, too.
Photo: getty images

It’s the latest effort to further the league’s growth in the U.S. by La Liga North America, a joint venture launched in August by the league and RSG, the Stephen Ross-owned company that also oversees the International Champions Cup tournament.

When the 15-year deal between La Liga and RSG was first announced, much of the focus was placed on the goal of having a regular-season match held in the U.S. for what would be the first game played outside of Europe, a suggestion that met intense criticism across the global soccer industry and ultimately will not happen this season.

However, the deal is just as much focused on building the league’s brand stateside, as well as representing it in commercial opportunities, including its next media rights deal.

“When we announced the partnership, there was a lot of the focus on the match, because it was the shiny and disruptive thing,” said Boris Gartner, the former Univision executive who is the CEO of La Liga North America. “But holistically, our real goal is to grow the sport of soccer here in the U.S., and grow the La Liga brand in the U.S.”

Gartner said the strategy to do that is centered around five key areas that the nine-person organization is working on: 1) the league’s media rights; 2) broadening its content strategy beyond matches such as an English-language documentary series on La Liga fans in the U.S. it is currently pitching to various streaming services; 3) assisting in developmental projects such as the launching of soccer academies; 4) creating a constant presence in the key markets of Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles; and 5) continuing to work on bringing a regular-season match to the U.S. Gartner said La Liga North America will announce which matchup it will look to bring to the U.S. next season in the near future.

Sevilla Chief Marketing Officer Ramón Loarte said the club and its executives have come to the U.S. several times in the last few years to plot out a commercial path into the country.

“If you think a little bit about the structure a club like ours would need to establish in the U.S., we’d probably need multiple offices across the U.S. with a number of staff members — it’s difficult and you’d need a lot of resources,” he said. “With this joint venture, they are providing us with a very good path to follow and helping us with our strategy, while also presenting opportunities for events like this.”