It was announced in August 2018 that LaLiga was partnering with Relevent Sports Group to create LaLiga North America, a joint venture that set out to win more fans for Spanish football in the United States and Canada. It is a challenge that involves building a ‘soccer’ culture in the region, as well as building affinity for the league itself. But after a year of the project, significant progress has already been achieved.
During September, the board of directors met to analyse the first stage of the joint venture and to reflect on the positive results. These include the development of a structure and operational team, developing local and global sponsorship agreements, new content, local market activations and establishing new sports projects.
Reflecting on its productive start, LaLiga North America CEO Boris Gartner said: “In this first year of operation, we have managed to establish the foundations to support growth in the North American market through an aggressive development strategy that includes generating bilingual content, the launch of sports academies and the creation of ‘LaLiga Zone’, a series of events and activations to bring LaLiga closer to its fans, focused on Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, New York and Miami, together with an integrated commercial strategy.”
During this year, LaLiga North America has worked on a strategy based on five main cornerstones to enhance its integrated development. These are television rights, a content and engagement strategy, the promotion of sports projects, the development of events and activations and a local commercial strategy.
New broadcast content agreements
The focus throughout is on messaging, events and content that are tailored for the North American market. This month for example, a new partnership was announced with the streaming service Sling TV, which will feature a range of content including interviews with LaLiga Ambassadors and Facebook Live Q&As . The channel already broadcasts all LaLiga regular season matches via beIN sports and is available on a range of mobile devices.
In addition, LaLiga North America recently announced a 12-episode English-language documentary series titled ‘United States of LaLiga’, with stories being told through North American fans, from a Deportivo La Coruña supporter in Brooklyn who has Galician roots to a Washington, D.C. couple who got engaged on the pitch of SD Eibar’s Ipurua Stadium at a LaLiga Santander match.
This content will follow LaLiga’s strategy to promote all clubs, as well as the league as a whole. During its first year, LaLiga North America has worked with the likes of Real Betis, Sevilla FC, RCD Mallorca, FC Barcelona, Real Valladolid and Real Sociedad to support them in their strategies for the American market.
As for the matches, a new agreement with beIN Sports USA and Canada for the network to broadcast LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank exclusively has also been reached, one that will run to 2024. LaLiga North America will move closer to the English-speaking audience by creating specific content and formats for this segment, as well as developing bonds with the continent’s Hispanic audience.
Supporting the growth of football
To build the future of the game, the joint venture has been working hard to build a love for football in general and to assist with the development of grassroots projects. This is being done through initiatives like LaLiga Academy USA and LaLiga Academy Canada and through programmes such as the partnership with Alianza de Fútbol, which creates opportunities for the Hispanic community and brings Spanish coaches and scouts into contact with top talent from underserved communities.
Further touchpoints are also being created with fans, an example being the Mercado Little Spain market in New York City where LaLiga matches will be broadcast. “We need to create a habit for our fans and make it easy for them to interact with us,” Gartner explained.
“We are very pleased with the first objectives achieved and with our relationship with LaLiga and we will carry on working aggressively to continue driving the development of football in the United States,” said Stephen Ross, President of Relevent Sports Group.
The LaLiga North America joint venture is a 15-year partnership, but the early signs are that the profile of the league is gathering momentum. “We are very satisfied with our progress,” LaLiga President Javier Tebas said of the start. “Now we are reinforcing the strategy so that during our second year we can continue to grow through this ambitious plan in the American market and so that we can boost the growth of the competition and LaLiga clubs in the United States and Canada.”