Since its launch in August 2018, LaLiga North America has built a fresh and dynamic approach to the market that is fuelled by strong brand partnerships and creative content.
The objective for the joint venture (between LaLiga and Relevent Sports Group) is to promote Spanish football in a manner that is tailored to the nuances of the US, Canada and Mexico, growing its profile based on engaging specific audiences.
“Once we launched, it was always clear for us that the core of our strategy had to be content,” stated Boris Gartner, the CEO of LaLiga North America, during an interview for Leaders’ ‘Media Innovators’ series.
“Not only do we create localised content that engages more with existing fans, but this allows us to go after new fans in a way that a traditional non-localised approach to the market wouldn’t let us,” he added.
Creation of 14 weekly shows for diverse audiences
For the joint venture, creating content that is specific to specific target demographics and to individual regions has always been a priority. Thorough market research was key to this strategy, with the initial focus being on the large Hispanic audience where there was already a historical connection to countries with a major football culture.
The first show LaLiga North America produced was therefore in Spanish, starring former Mexico international and LaLiga Santander player Luis García Postigo. But as audiences grew, LaLiga North America has expanded its strategy to include English-language shows with recognized talent like Allie Long (US Women’s National Team), Kevin Egan and Aaron West, among others, while accelerating content production.
For the 2020/21 season, from its newly built studios in Guadalajara, Mexico, a total of 14 video shows are being produced every week, each designed to entertain and engage the competition’s new target audiences.
“We want to make sure there is a LaLiga branded piece of content wherever our audience is,” Gartner commented. “This helps to reach our target demographics but also appeal more to wider demographics, ranging from superfans of LaLiga to general sports consumers.”
Short- and long-form
The level of content allows LaLiga North America to heavily optimise its output based on the channel being used or the target audience. A mix of short and long-form programmes are produced, with varying levels of detail on the competition, using hosts that provide their own distinct appeal.
“We’re working with personalities that bridge the gap between sports and culture,” Gartner said.
“Even general sports fans who don’t watch a lot of football are being reached through some of our lifestyle content. We then leverage showpiece matches to tell stories about LaLiga.”
Programmes range from weekly analysis shows to quickfire interviews to evergreen content, typically lasting around 5 minutes and consisting of distinct sections that can be clipped and shared on different social channels.
One of the most popular weekly shows is ‘LaLiga Zone’, featuring Aaron West and Kevin Egan. “It not only has a component of analysing the competition and the results of the week, but tries to weave in the culture of it,” Gartner explained. “For example, the recent debut of Sergiño Dest in Barcelona was very big for the American audience, so we tried to get more and more into the cultural impact of that.”
Longer-form content includes on-the-ground storytelling, such as the ‘United States of LaLiga’ docuseries. These programmes tell the stories of North American fans, from a Villarreal CF superfan in California to a Washington, D.C. couple who got engaged on the pitch of SD Eibar’s Ipurua Stadium.
“You’re not able to find those stories unless you're on the ground, so that that has been the core of everything that we do,” Gartner pointed out, adding that LaLiga North America has professionals spread out across New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Mexico. “We have created a home here and set up relationships with all clubs and their fan groups.”
Creating content with sponsors
Content represents such a strong element of the LaLiga North America’s strategy that Gartner estimates that 95 percent of the joint venture’s sponsorship agreements have a content component to them.
“We are strongly focused on finding brand partners that can help elevate our brand,” he said. “We know that we have a certain level of popularity in the US with certain demographics, but we're far from being a general market sport and a general market brand. So we’re finding partnerships with brands like Verizon, PointsBet, Camarena Tequila, Fanatiz and others. Making sure we were able to partner with and elevate our brand with their customers was as important as the revenue that they generated.”
One recent activation was a VIP ElClásico watch party in partnership with Verizon for the 2020/21 Matchday Seven clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid. By working with OTT company LiveLike, 20 Verizon customers were able to watch the game online along with former Real Madrid player Steve McManaman.
“It’s a product that we now think we can scale, not only within the territory but actually outside of the territory,” said Gartner.
Even though the content strategy wasn’t necessarily designed to focus on live events, LaLiga North America has leveraged its capabilities to create new offerings and take advantage from the new dynamics created by the coronavirus pandemic. The main objective is for the content to be complementary to the 380 LaLiga Santander matches of each season, but using the cultural and lifestyle content that is generated from this, it is able to bring a wider group of fans closer to LaLiga.
“We want to create those touch points and opportunities to interact with our fans and achieve a larger reach,” Gartner stated. “We’re getting increasingly more specialised and this takes us closer to our goal.”