The coronavirus pandemic has been tough for all, but local communities are working together to bounce back from the hardships of the crisis. This is certainly the case in the province of Málaga in southern Spain, where the local football club Málaga CF have launched a unique campaign designed to support local businesses.
After the initial coronavirus lockdown, the club that is playing in LaLiga SmartBank, Spain’s second division, created the ‘Jugamos de Local’ initiative – which translates to English as ‘Playing at Home’. This is for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the city, and across the province, who can access Málaga CF’s millions of social media followers, website visitors and newsletter subscribers to promote their products and services.
Explaining the background to ‘Playing at Home’, Málaga CF’s director of institutional relations Ana Vera said: “This initiative was born from the need for mutual support between the club and the province’s business community. The COVID-19 outbreak seriously hurt most of the SMEs here because activity had to temporarily cease. Following the strict but necessary lockdown, many businesses found the return to normality was more gradual than expected, so there was a tough crisis. These businesses needed a boost and Málaga CF, which was also significantly affected, decided to step up and create a platform to bring greater visibility to the business sector.”
More than 30 businesses have signed up already, representing a variety of sectors including automotive, food and beverage, hospitality, health and beauty, education, retail and legal services. As Vera said: “They are all SMEs from the province of Málaga and we have all kinds, from your local neighbourhood fruit shop to your street’s hairdresser to the garage where you take your car. What they have in common is that all are Málaga-based and Málaga-supporting businesses.”
These companies pay a small fee to support the club in what are also difficult times for Málaga CF, given that the 2020/21 season had to be played almost entirely behind closed doors. In return, the SMEs receive visibility on Málaga CF newsletters and on the website, as well as on the video scoreboard at La Rosaleda Stadium, where the average post-pandemic attendance has been 15,000. Málaga CF also promoted these partners on their social media platforms, where they have a community of close to two million followers and where even a post with average-to-low interaction can reach an average of 10,000 people on each of its platforms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Outlining the value of this initiative to the participants, Vera stated: “It’s a way of allowing these SMEs to become sponsors of Málaga CF, something that would have been impossible for many of them in the past.”
Paloma Cremades, co-owner of the Helados Cremades ice cream shop, is one of the businesspeople to have benefited. She explained how significant it is that Málaga CF have made it possible for SMEs to partner with a professional football club, saying: “As a small business, we never thought we could collaborate with Málaga CF given our budget, but this has opened up a door for us to form part of what is our football club, which is exciting. We can work with our club and also become better known through the network they’ve created. The main benefit is the direct publicity with the club’s fans and we have become known to people we’d never have been able to reach alone.”
Francisco Pérez, the owner of AutoKey Málaga, a local locksmith's, is another who wanted to take part in this joining of forces. He explained why he thinks the project is beneficial for all, saying: “The club have been pioneering with this advertising idea. There is a benefit for the club with the income they receive and for the SMEs of our city with the greater promotion they’re getting. It was unthinkable for an SME to sponsor a club as big as Málaga CF, but now it is and the impact has been incredible as millions of people from all over can see us, at La Rosaleda and on social media.”
Málaga CF are keen to ensure that the participating businesses ultimately enjoy long-term benefits in addition to the short-term exposure. By recording promotional content and by giving out ‘Playing at Home’ stickers for the partners, the names of these businesses should become familiar and fans can quickly identify them.
The club have also provided networking opportunities to the SMEs, something Málaga CF already had experience in from many years of supporting the local business community through events organised for the Málaga Business Club, which is largely made up of leading sponsors. Now, they’re organising a networking day for the ‘Playing at Home’ partners, which could lead to long-term opportunities among the participating businesses.
There is hope that the local economy can bounce back stronger from the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic. As Vera concluded: “With all of this, Málaga CF will keep working to help recover our local identity of remembrance, commitment and trust. We want to bring the club back to the city and its people and we want to work hand in hand with the sunny and positive characteristics that define our fans. We’re constantly moving forward to achieve our objectives.”