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TUE 16 NOV | PRESIDENTS
Sevilla FC's new general business manager Paradela: “I want to bring the value of the club’s brand up to the level of the sporting performance”
Sevilla FC's new general business manager Paradela: “I want to bring the value of the club’s brand up to the level of the sporting performance”
  • Jorge Paradela recently joined Sevilla FC and explains his global vision of the football industry and how the club is developing its business model.

Jorge Paradela joined Sevilla FC this summer as the new general business manager, which includes overseeing the marketing department. Over the previous two decades, he had held various positions at a major global company in the drinks industry (Heineken) and now, as he begins his new adventure, he discusses his vision for the football industry and to explain how the club is developing its business model.

- What is your assessment of your first few months at the club? What has impressed you the most?

My assessment is very positive, this is a fascinating world. A few things have surprised me, such as: the especially high pace of activity, even though I had been working in a dynamic industry before; the great variety of challenges we have ahead; and the highly advanced role of data in the technological solutions that are applied to marketing and the sporting management. Another thing that has caught my attention is the wealth of information we have. At Sevilla FC, there are very good sources for information and different metrics and this includes the dashboard provided by LaLiga, which offers a great variety of data and key conclusions that help with analysis.

- After spending 20 years with Heineken, what are the main challenges you are facing in this new role and what do you think you can bring to the football industry and to Sevilla FC?

One of the main challenges is to consolidate the international strategy of the club, completing our brand story and positioning with a comprehensive strategy of sustainability. I want to strengthen and modernise our communication channels, which includes social media, where there is significant growth. I want to develop our social area and, lastly, to have a long-term revenue strategy for sponsorships, retail and commercial. This is part of what I want to contribute. I don’t only want to settle in quickly to this fast-paced decision-making environment, as I also want to take pause and establish processes with certain issues.

- The sporting growth of Sevilla FC is clear to see. What efforts are being made at the club so that this evolution is in line with the institutional and brand growth?

Here, I have encountered a very solid organisational structure. The project that is being led by José Castro and José María Del Nido Carrasco is incredibly strong. As for the way of working, I use a very simple metric, which is that Sevilla FC has one position in the sporting rankings and another for the value of the brand. In a sporting sense we are above our position for brand value. I want to close this gap. Our focus should be to get closer to that level.”

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- What roles do innovation and technology have in the Sevilla FC business model?

Before my arrival, the club launched its own data department, with this information being applied to the sporting work, for example with scouting, while this department also collaborates with mine when it comes to digital marketing and CRM. Technology, when applied to the fan journey, can play a relevant role. It is a pleasant surprise to see how the football industry is ahead of the curve when it comes to the adoption of data and artificial intelligence, both for sporting uses and for business uses. For example, in merchandising and retail, where we have good numbers but have the objective this year of achieving double digit income growth, there are technological opportunities to enhance processes through, among other things, augmented reality.

- How is the club adapting to the generation of digital natives and their consumption habits?

Firstly, it’s about purposefully strengthening our social media profiles. We can see that there is an explosion in the popularity of our social media profiles on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and our English language Twitter account. All this forms part of our plan to bring ourselves closer to these generations. In fact, we are about to launch a Twitch channel too. I think there’s a need to get in on the action with the philosophy of better done than perfect, which means getting started and then improving as things progress. The challenge is combining the proud traditions of this global sport with a future that is digital. You want to fill your stadium, but at the same time you know that these generations have their attention split across many things and that their way of consuming football is different. They want to see the pure spectacle and highlights and it’s not so easy to get them to watch a full football match. We are making efforts to have a significant number of young people in the stadium, while also being present for fans on social media and other channels.

- Do you agree that the development and evolution of football is going to be about understanding the supporters and knowing what interests them? And, if so, why?

You must be in touch with the evolution of your consumers, which in this case is football fans. Just as in my previous company, where the focus was on understanding what the consumer needs and when they consume, I think we do the same thing here, which means monitoring how the way of following football evolves for our fans.

Looking back on my previous professional experience, there we would speak about the repertoire of consumption, which means that a consumer has preferred brands that they turn to often and then those that they consume occasionally in certain situations. I think something similar is happening in football with the new generations and internationally, as some don’t only support one club as they instead have a repertoire of teams that they follow. The world of NFTs and tokens will also lead us in this direction.

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- What is Sevilla FC’s position blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs? 

Sponsorship in the football industry has changed a lot and this is a wave that you should try to capitalise on. This is a field that is advancing very quickly and there’s almost an obligation to explore it. There are traditional sectors that, fortunately, are still linked to football. Plus, we need to see what role can be held by businesses in the energy sector that see football as a loudspeaker for the energy transition, which could be achieved through sponsorship. Evidently, the NFTs and fan tokens sector is the most active right now.

Football is increasingly becoming part of entertainment and it’s good to identify business sectors within this new field. For example, the trading sector, in which we have our main sponsor Naga [leading social investing platform with a global community of more than 1 million users that seeks to revolutionize the world by decentralizing financial technology, offering access to the best market tools for everyone around the world], is interesting because it can combine finance, technology and football. We’re talking about solutions so that small savers can channel their savings in a modern and agile way. With this, we’re talking about young people who have an interest in technology and some savings and they come across these types of platforms. These companies see the potential to become known globally through football.

- The club is becoming increasingly well known internationally. In which international markets is the club well established and which of these brings the greatest returns?

I was surprised by the health of the various metrics (social media numbers and brand interest) that Sevilla FC already has in countries such as China or, especially, the USA, Mexico and Morocco. There are other solid projects, such as the one we have in India with FC Bengaluru United. This is a young club that is just five years old and the team is already in the second division of Indian football with the aim of reaching the top tier soon. As well as the fact that this club is based in Bangalore, one of the most important technological hubs of Asia, there are other interesting aspects, like the fact they want to work on youth football with us and using our know-how. This is also an interesting partner because of the businesses and shareholders behind it. One of our main international sponsors is Valvoline and they have a special interest in India. If all of these ingredients are combined, and if we make the most of the work LaLiga is doing in this country, you realise that you can do something with a significant impact.

- Most global clubs have a website and social media profiles in various languages. How has this need to have communications in multiple languages changed over time? How can this help clubs to grow an international presence?

At Sevilla FC, our website and other club communication platforms are available in seven languages. It’s true that some have a more strategic component and others a more tactical one. We need to be aware, to decide whether to add new languages and to know if working on a specific language is worth it, even if the numbers aren’t great. For example, all our communication in Arabic, and not only on social media, is gaining more and more importance. Currently, we have four Moroccan players in the first-team squad (Bono, Munir, Oussama Idrissi and Youssef En-Nesyri) and this creates extra interest in Sevilla FC there, which is something you need to keep in mind and know how to capitalise on.

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- What is the main indicator to detect if there is interest in a certain country or region?

The primary indicator nowadays is social media. We have lots of good information in this field and a social media dashboard that allows us to quickly evaluate the impact. One other country that stands out a lot for us is Argentina, a nation with which we’ve always had strong connections. Right now, we have Argentine players like Gonzalo Montiel, Erik Lamela, Lucas Ocampos and Papu Gómez. These reports also highlight Colombia, which is partly related to the past signing of Carlos Bacca.

- Does the sporting department consider such factors?

The sporting department build the squad thinking solely about sporting criteria, but we in the business department can make the most of such circumstances when, for example, there are multiple players from the same country in the squad. We need to capitalise on the commercial opportunities this brings in those countries. There’s always a need to bring the strategic and tactical together, as in any business.

- The football industry, as with so many others, has suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s also one of the industries that is recovering its potential the quickest. When do you think it will be as it was before the pandemic for football?

The world of football has suffered with the pandemic, but compared to other sectors and industries it has been a relative suffering. Some revenues streams were completely cut off, like income from tickets, but others didn’t suffer, like TV rights money or prize money. The recovery will be quick because football is more and more a form of entertainment. People haven’t lost interest in football, although there is a change with the new generations in terms of how they consume and watch football. We might need to have a little more patience to see full stadiums again, but the recovery for other areas of the business has been quick. Looking at it all together, at TV audiences, social media numbers, the following on OTTs and more, we see that the sport is in great health. Interest in football is still very high and it’ll only get higher.

- Such a crisis can unite or separate. How do you think the football industry reacted?

Ever since my arrival, I have noticed a very intense collaboration with LaLiga and open communication with other clubs. It’s quite easy to phone somebody from another club to ask for an opinion on something. That speaks very well for the spirit of collaboration that exists in this league. The work that was done to ensure the 2019/20 season could finish, and for 2020/21 to take place even without fans, demonstrated great flexibility, resilience and organisation. In general, there has been a backdrop of unity and collaboration, which perhaps some have interpreted in a different way to try to launch adventures that have little traction and that aren’t what fans want.

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