Being part of LaLiga Santander brings high broadcast incomes for member clubs but also a global profile that provides new commercial opportunities. Since achieving its latest promotion in 2019, CA Osasuna has taken advantage of both.
The club from Pamplona, which turned 100 years old in 2020, has become a competitive part of Spain’s top competition and has secured new sponsors. Even while redeveloping its stadium and grappling with the global pandemic, it continues to report strong financial results thanks to a distinct membership model and strong community focus. It now intends to use these parts of its identity to find international growth.
The LaLiga model for distributing income from audiovisual rights allows clubs like Osasuna to have more stable finances but it does not remove the need to build new revenue streams. As the club’s general director Fran Canal explained: “We know that the income from TV rights is and will continue to be the main source of income, but we need to keep working on alternative sources.”
One of the keys to success will be the ability to commercialise an identity that has brought the club to where it is today.
Using a local narrative to find new sponsors
In the last year, Osasuna has signed a shirt sponsorship deal with Verleal, a frozen food company from Navarre until the end of the 2021-22 season. It has also agreed new contracts with other important sponsors, also locally based, and is starting to bring in sponsors for its women’s team and LaLiga Genuine team.
“This creates extra income that didn’t exist before,” added Canal. “We’re also working to partner with some sponsors who’ll help us generate income from competitive gaming.”
The choice of the club to work with primarily local partners enforces its status as part of the Navarre community, which is now being used to help build its international brand.
“In recent years we have significantly backed the communication department of the club and there has been a clear improvement in our digital elements,” Canal added. “This has allowed us to build up new ways to commercialise and it has also improved the global image of the club, which translates into greater interest from business partners.”
To help the wider region benefit, the club is offering to partner with local businesses, sponsors or otherwise, to investigate new markets together. “We held meetings with the Navarre Chamber of Commerce so that businesses from this region can explore foreign markets along with us and vice versa,” Canal said. “We think this can be a very interesting relationship for all parties because there is a strong export sector in Navarre. We need to know how to make the most of this to go out to other markets.”
The pride at remaining a members-run club
A key part of the club’s strategy is to maximise its image as a members-run club, one of only four ‘sporting clubs’ in LaLiga Santander.
“Modern football is brutally competitive and the limited companies have the ability to bring in capital that we don’t have,” Canal conceded, adding that Osasuna is the smallest of the league’s sporting clubs. “That clearly makes things difficult, but we embrace this with a certain romanticism, with an element of David vs Goliath.”
Rather than focus on the limitations, Canal is focused on how the club’s structure can help it to stand out. “For our members and for Navarre in general, it’s an enormous matter of pride that CA Osasuna can still be owned by the members and we have to maintain that,” he said.
“So, we have to reinvent ourselves to consolidate our position and to keep growing. We’ve been able to do that until now on the back of good sporting management and a substantial improvement in our communication. This has brought us back to LaLiga Santander, while we’ve also been able to boost our image and multiply our income.”
The unlimited resources of internationalisation
Using that same narrative, the club now intends to boost its internationalisation efforts. CA Osasuna is a club owned by 25,000 members and that has been a symbol of its region and people for 100 years. Those in charge at El Sadar feel that this story should be shared with the world.
“In modern football, this kind of heritage is something few can claim and we must be able to brings this romantic idea of football to more people,” Canal said. “We have to be even more ambitious now because the local capacity is limited and the international capacity for growth is practically unlimited.”
The club is aware of the support that LaLiga offers its clubs to take on such challenges and to improve teams’ visibility abroad. “LaLiga is working hard so that clubs like ours can make this necessary jump,” Canal noted.
The recipe for healthy accounts: Not spending more than you have
The club finds itself in a good position to begin a new period of expansion, having finished the last financial year with a profit, a particularly impressive achievement in the context of the global pandemic.
Canal reflected on how difficult it was to keep the accounts in the black and underlined that CA Osasuna has had the best economic results of the four LaLiga Santander clubs that are not public limited companies.
“The recipe is simple and it’s something that our president has made clear to all the employees, which is that we can’t spend one euro more than we bring in,” Canal explained.
"We reached a very simple agreement with our players and employees and I want to thank their willingness, as we quickly resolved the doubts that we had after the March lockdown. That gave us the peace of mind to be able to work in the short term. In the end, they all earned 100% of their remuneration.”
“This has been a tough year for all businesses but we managed to finish the year with 2.7m euros in pre-tax profit,” Canal revealed. “We were able to return more than half a million euros to our members as compensation for the matches held behind closed doors.”
A new source of income from stadium redevelopment
When fans do return to matches, those visiting Osasuna’s El Sadar stadium will find significantly improved surroundings that will further increase the club’s economic potential.
“We’ve been working so that the stadium reform we’ve carried out at El Sadar can allow us more space for commercial outlets,” Canal said. “We’re currently in the process of bringing these retail stores to life which will allow us to have a source of income that we couldn’t count on before.”
The director added: “In the past few months, we’ve been working to boost the performance of services such as the leases to bars inside the stadium or the creation of multiuse spaces that can be used by businesses and groups 365 days per year. There are various aspects that we’re working on and that have helped sponsorship and advertising performance rise by double digits in the past few seasons.”
A different club that can connect with people
From all these efforts, Osasuna enters its 101st year as a business ready to expand overseas. Regarding its immediate target markets, the club knows it has an important number of fans in Mexico from coach Javier Aguirre’s time in charge of the team, or in Iran from when Javad Nekounam, Masoud Shojaei and Karim Ansarifard played for the Rojillos.
China is another market being explored with support from LaLiga. The club is also broadening its social media profiles and has launched an English version of its website, including an improved ecommerce function. But underlying all this expansion activity, the club believes that identity is what will truly win the attention of new fans.
“The first thing we must do is ensure people know about us and ensure that when they hear CA Osasuna’s name they can look for and find the information they want, knowing and understanding that we’re a different kind of club from the majority around us,” Canal concluded.