In the last decade, LaLiga has become “a good case study as a business model” and has achieved what few other companies have managed to do, according to José Moya, director of LaLiga Business School, academic partner of Johan Cruyff Institute
The slogan ‘It’s not football. It’s La Liga’ is, in itself, a declaration of intent. It is a statement that summarizes an elaborate business strategy that the body that governs the main competition at club level in Spain has successfully applied to make it a consumer product on a global scale. The success of LaLiga, accelerated and consummated with the arrival of Javier Tebas as president from 2013, is worthy of “a good case study as a business model”, according to the director of LaLiga Business School, José Moya, although in his case it is not just an advertising slogan. He is backed by figures at all levels: in global brand positioning, in the distribution of income from television rights, in the number of followers in all corners of the planet, and in human resources.
Football is a fertile field and LaLiga has been able to sow its seeds very well in order to grow the business. It bet on a change of mentality and nourished itself with talent to create an international network composed of 44 country managers in 41 different countries that export the Spanish football model; it centralized the television rights to broadcast matches halfway around the world and expanded the business and reach of the league itself and its teams; and where 40 employees used to work, they now have more than 700. Not to mention that they have gone from four million fans on social networks to 100 million in less than eight years.
Johan Cruyff Institute and LaLiga Business School bring the case of LaLiga as a business model to the academic arena. The program ‘FOOTBALL INDUSTRY TRENDS. LaLiga Case Study: The Making of a Global Brand’ provides a real and objective view of the current context of the football industry based on the innovative management model of LaLiga. We talked to José Moya about the keys to its transformation and brand expansion strategies, and the value of the social component of one of the most competitive and largest organizations in the world.
How would you define LaLiga as a product?
It’s an entertainment product, that’s the best definition of LaLiga. LaLiga is football, is sport and we are all over the world. In the football industry, I think it’s one of the best products to have fun, not just the 90 minutes of the match, even the whole week. We are more than just 90 minutes also and I would define it as an entertainment product.
What was the turning point in getting LaLiga to be recognized as a competition of global interest?
I think it was an important moment when Javier Tebas, the current president, arrived to LaLiga. He became the president in April 2013 and he totally changed the mentality. We started to work in a different way and built the brand from the actives we have, players and football teams and now LaLiga as a product is more than just players; it’s a competition, it’s an entertainment, as I said before, and we have been growing from Spain to the planet. Another important date was when we created the project ‘LaLiga global network’, promoted in 2016. We recruited talent from different parts of the world, young people who love sport and football, and we sent them to all over the world as a country manager. We have more than 50 people working for LaLiga in different parts of the world.
As you said, in 2016 LaLiga created a network of 44 delegates in 41 different countries around the world to contribute to the growth of Spanish football. What strategy was implemented to achieve such a successful expansion?
I would define our international strategy with a term called ‘glocal strategy’, which means global but local. That’s why we want to have people in the territory where we want to develop LaLiga brand. We want to be there; we want to be close to the main actors of the society and sports. Of course, we have this global mentality, but we need to work in the territory with a local mentality also. And we want that territory to feel close to us.
“I would define our international strategy with a term called ‘glocal strategy’, which means global but local”
From which countries has La Liga learned the most and for which countries is LaLiga an example?
We learn from all of them. Every country is different and they have their own culture, their own way to do things and we learn from all of them. That’s why this project, LaLiga global network, is valuable also for LaLiga, because we have information about the whole planet every day, we have reports from all of them. Our model is a sample not only for the sports industry in the world, but also for other industries. What LaLiga is achieving these years, in the past 8, it’s something that not many companies in the world have done. We totally changed the mentality, we have passed from, let’s say, a national mentality to a global one and we have grown as a company also in people; when Javier Tebas arrived to LaLiga we were 40 employees, now we are more than 600 employees all over the world. So, I think this mentality could help companies and governments all over the world. I think LaLiga is a good case study as a company.
How can the LaLiga continue to grow as one of the most successful industries in the sports industry?
I think we are in the good way, we are growing, with a bigger audience every day, more fans over the world every day, we are growing in social media, in audience, in everything. The next step is keep working, and a really important thing is to listen the market, what is saying and the changes; we have to be flexible, in fact, we are flexible, and we have to get ready for changes and try to be there for any opportunity that appears.
What is LaLiga’s contribution to the Spain brand?
It’s very important. Football is important worldwide, and LaLiga as Spanish football is an amazing brand. But not just football, also in sports, we are a reference in the sports industry. In individual sports, like tennis with Rafa Nadal and other examples, and team sports. LaLiga represents football and we export the dimension, what Spain is in the world; we are not just beach and sun, we are also sports.
“What LaLiga is achieving these years, in the past 8, it’s something that not many companies in the world have done. We totally changed the mentality”
What is the profile of the managers who work in LaLiga?
The profile is really wide. But mainly, the people are not very old, we are senior in experience but not in age. The average age in LaLiga could be around 40 years old. And obviously, we love sports, and we love football and our work. If you go to LaLiga you can feel a good atmosphere because people are really committed and you realize that they are where they want to be and this is very important. And, of course, we have professionals with good experience and postgraduate studies.
What qualities should a professional who wants to work in LaLiga have?
The professionals that work for LaLiga have to be ready to work. People who work in the sports industry all have something in common. I always say that we are lucky because we love sport, but at the same time, because you work in the entertainment industry, you have to be ready to work at weekends. You prepare a product that the audience consumes in their free time, so you have to work during this free time. And you have to be ready and available for this open schedule and to have a global mentality.
What areas of recruitment are currently being promoted most?
All of them. As I said before, in 2013 when Javier Tebas became the president, we were 40 people and now we are almost 700 people. We have grown in all areas. We are not seeking a specific profile. Every day, if you click on LinkedIn you will see that there are opportunities to work in LaLiga in different departments. I don’t want to say one, because it’s really open.
Thanks to the growth of LaLiga at an international level, brands such as Puma, Budweiser, Livescore and BKT were incorporated this season as new partners. What values does LaLiga transmit to attract new sponsors?
Of course, the values of sport. We represent sport—football, but sport. LaLiga is global, if you become a partner or sponsor of LaLiga your exposure will be global. And one of the most important things is the team that is behind; after you sign the agreement, the human resources that LaLiga has to take care of this sponsorship. From the moment you sign, you get in contact with the different departments—activation, sponsorship—and we really take care of our new partners. And they feel there are people behind this sponsorship. It’s not just sign and we’ll talk; it’s sign and we’ll start working.
The centralization of TV rights was also a masterstroke by LaLiga. What other significant agreements are contemplated in the future to continue adding to a solid product?
Of course, the international TV rights negotiation and agreements are the main income for LaLiga, but we also have sponsors and international agreements, which is not money but is really good an amazing brand all over the world. And this is the way. TV rights is the result of the audience you have, the fans, but you have to work day by day to have a better audience. More branding means more fans; more fans means more audience. This is the equation and we have to be working on this every day.
What has been LaLiga’s commitment to innovation in order to be recognized by the Spanish Innovation Certification Agency (ACIE) and the European Quality Assurance (EQA) agency?
From the beginning, LaLiga bet on innovation. We think that technology and innovation are vital. We signed an agreement with Microsoft many years ago as our digital platform. We are working in technology, in digital, in data, we have a really big technology department and for us it is one of the main keys for success. It’s the main way to get direct contact with fans all over the world. We care about Spanish fans, but also fans wherever they are, Chinese, Malaysian, Colombian… All fans are really important for us.
“From the beginning, LaLiga bet on innovation. We think that technology and innovation are vital”
Where is LaLiga’s digital strategy heading in the coming years?
The digital department of LaLiga has been growing in the last years. Last year, we achieved 100 million followers in different social media channels. We started in 2013 with 4 million; now we have more than 100 million and it’s still growing. One of the most important things is that we have this direct contact with fans and we try to talk their language, not just the language itself but also the message. We try to get closer to them with this fan engagement strategy and we are growing every day.
Apart from a strong commitment to eSports, how do you attract a younger audience?
We develop and create a lot of content for these new generations that we know will be our future potential fans and audience. We develop a lot of strategies and we create a lot of app’s and games. We want to create these new products to get closer to the new fans—both the old and the new, all of them are important for us.
Much has been said about the negative effects of Covid. Has there been any positive effect?
I think during Covid, not just for LaLiga or the sports industry, but for all industries, Covid has made us think more. I love this sentence ‘imagination to the power’. Thinking is free, and we have to think, we have to create new strategies. New scenarios are coming and we need to get ready for them.
“Covid has made us think more. New scenarios are coming and we need to get ready for them”
Why is educational training so important in the professionalization of the football business and in the sports industry in general?
I think it’s a really important point, it’s the base. If you want to be ready to face new challenges, before that you need to get the tools to work with them. To study an MBA in sport, or any master’s program in sport, is really important because the sports industry has been growing, is still growing and will continue to do so and the industry needs professionals to make the industry grow. Lucky for us, we have more offer every day. I can explain a personal situation: when I finished my degree in business administration, I decided to work in the sports industry and thought ‘the easiest way is to study a master’s because I need the knowledge’. In Spain, in 2005, when I did the master’s, we just had two options: one in Barcelona and one in Madrid. I was working in Madrid, so I decided to do it in Madrid. But nowadays, if you go to whatever university in Spain or all over the world, you have this education based on the sport business and I think it’s very good for the industry because we need these professionals.
“To study an MBA in sport, or any master’s program in sport, is really important because the sports industry has been growing, is still growing and will continue to do so and the industry needs professionals to make the industry grow”
What does the agreement signed with Johan Cruyff Institute to deliver the new academic program ‘FOOTBALL INDUSTRY TRENDS. LaLiga Case Study: The Making of a Global Brand’ mean for LaLigaBusiness School?
We are so happy with this agreement because it brings two really important and global brands in the football and the sports industry together to share our knowledge and expertise with both the current and future professionals in the industry. And I think that to create this environment, this space where we can exchange opinions and share our expertise will always be positive to make the sports industry grow.