This article was produced in association with LaLiga
Many sports properties talk about worldwide ambitions, but for Spanish football’s LaLiga, actions are speaking louder than words.
Just over a year ago, the LaLiga Global Network was established, giving young professionals the chance to represent Spanish football’s most famous property around the world.
The project, spearheaded by LaLiga president Javier Tebas and supported by Santander and Universia, kicked off with a four-stage recruitment process featuring more than 12,565 applicants representing 126 nationalities.
After the candidates’ CVs were analysed, a first round of interviews took place across Spain before in-depth interviews and then a grand final event at Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium, where 150 finalists were whittled down to a final 60. After 10 weeks of training, 44 of these individuals were posted to countries in the Global Network or countries where LaLiga already had a presence, but were in need of extra staff.
Three of the applicants became regional coordinators and another two became part of the LaLiga management team as assistants to the president. Additionally, two others were selected to support LaLiga’s broadcasting division and six more are now working at LaLiga clubs.
Reflecting on the complex and rigorous recruitment process, LaLiga Global Network manager Nico García says that the full launch of the project “has been an experience in itself”.
The Global Network’s representatives range from the ages of 26 to 38 and include Spaniards, as well as an American, Belgian, Canadian, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Iranian, Italian, Korean, New Zealander, two Moroccans and other nationalities.
“What was crucial for us was that prospective professionals needed to have knowledge of the sporting sector and knowledge of the markets in which they’d be working and were selected, because they’d already worked in those markets or came from the countries,” García says.
“The majority specialise in business development, but each one has specialist knowledge. We have lawyers, consultants, people involved in marketing, communication and specialists in other areas.
“What was most important for us wasn’t a matter of what they’d studied or where they were from, but rather it was a matter of finding the right fit for what we had in mind. This is because one of the main problems in overseas projects is the high turnover of staff due to lack of adaptation to the market which they were sent to work in – a rate of approximately 25 to 30 per cent. We’re very proud to say that so far nobody has voluntarily left the project or the country that they were assigned to.”
Under the structure of the Global Network, a dedicated team based in Madrid works alongside coordinators representing Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East and North Africa to consider suggestions in each market. If they receive the go-ahead from the coordinators, García and Oscar Mayo, LaLiga’s director of international development, then the representatives will take the lead on the project.
As García explains, the Global Network enables a dedicated market-by-market approach, with a so-called ‘GLO-CAL’ strategy – with global ambitions, but a local focus – underpinning each project.
Information about the different opportunities is gathered using a tool through which the representatives can report their progress on each objective. The tool creates automated reports that are sent to the departments on a weekly basis so that they are able to follow their progress, make adjustments to strategies or intervene if deemed necessary.
For a property as ambitious as LaLiga, broadening the horizons in order to start fulfilling its awesome global potential was an essential move.
“The need for LaLiga to expand internationally is huge and we couldn’t afford to wait, since our imperative is to continue growing on an international level and at pace,” García says.
“This meant that the selection process needed to be carried out in a quick and efficient manner. It took exactly five months between the moment the recruitment drive began and when the first representatives headed to their postings.
“It was vital for us to ensure that the process was transparent. Football is a very attractive business to work in and we had to be sure that the professionals we selected were the best fit for each designated market. Bearing this in mind, having an outside partner involved, in this case Universia, helped us during the selection process, and this was key to ensuring transparency.”
Other challenges in establishing the Global Network have included labour migration trends and adapting to the specific requirements of each market in order to find representatives who can work there, as well as an enforced expansion of human resources across various LaLiga departments in order to exploit the number of opportunities that are emerging.
The aim has been to champion LaLiga’s international expansion, with the goal of boosting the value of international media rights, increasing the number of followers of Spanish football and generating business opportunities for LaLiga and its clubs.
The Global Network’s officials also monitor local coverage to ensure quality broadcasts and liaise with networks and sponsors to ensure LaLiga’s brand is presented appropriately, whilst exploring new sponsorship and licensing agreements, as well as other revenue-generating opportunities.
The representatives also oversee the creation of tailored content for each market and provide local assistance to media and marketing partners, as well as institutional support through strategic alliances with leagues, federations and associations worldwide.
“Before the project took off, 94 objectives were set out in each one of LaLiga’s departments which the representatives would have to tackle with the aim of helping the departments with local knowledge, contacts and commercial opportunity suggestions,” García says.
“Our management is completely multi-faceted. Our mission is to get closer to our fans, our partners such as broadcasters, sponsors and institutional partners and offer local knowledge. This will help all LaLiga departments to develop and fulfil their international development objectives, to implement initiatives and to discover new commercial opportunities. This of course depends on what opportunities each market has to offer, and therefore it’s important to have local knowledge which can help us shape our business strategies.”
There have already been some notable commercial and business development success stories through the Global Network.
So far, about 15 agreements have been reached with international leagues, commercial deals have been signed and a digital content strategy is being developed in every market.
One example of a significant development is in Russia, where an official LaLiga account on VK VKontakte, a popular social network, has been created.
“Through the representative, we found out that, given the content we offer would be of interest for the Russian market, solely tying ourselves to social networks like Facebook wouldn’t be a wise decision, given that in Russia it only covers 18 per cent of the market,” García adds. “Thanks to the representative’s work in Russia, we agreed a promotional deal with VK, found an agency that could support us in adapting our content to the network, and now we’re able to communicate with our potential audience in Russia.
“Another example is our collaboration with Eibar on their last visit to Japan, a potentially appealing market for the club. Through our International Development department, and as part of a collaboration with Octavi, the delegate in Japan, we were able to offer the club the services it needed to achieve its commercial objectives on their visit.”
Other highlights have included sponsorship deals with SportPesa in South Africa and MTN in Iran, while more than 30,000 fans attended 10 special El Clásico events worldwide. Additionally, there have been collaborations with FC Barcelona in the Asia-Pacific region, while Espanyol, Real Betis and Malaga have been exploring joint opportunities, with the support of the Global Network, in China.
There have also been CSR agreements with the Vicente Ferrer Foundation in India and the Uni Papua Football Community in Indonesia, while collaboration agreements have been sealed in various countries, including Argentina, Botswana, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Sweden.
“I’m convinced that the Global Network will become one of the many LaLiga success stories, just as the economic control scheme established by Javier Tebas or the centralisation of television rights have been,” García adds.
“The Global Network has been a catalyst in the exponential growth of our business. The quantity and quality of the information we receive is amazing and sometimes we we’re unable to cope with the amount of commercial opportunities out there in the global business world.
“Of course, our objective is that the project will become self-sustaining within a short amount of time, thanks to the value of our international rights. Looking further ahead to the long term, time will tell, but the human and professional qualities of the professionals that are working in the Global Network mean that they have a chance of being leading figures in the sporting sector and in LaLiga in the future.”
Read the Q&A with Oscar Mayo, LaLiga’s director of international development
An ‘immeasurable return’
LaLiga president Javier Tebas has hailed the impact of the Global Network one year on from its creation.
- “The selection process was long and demanding, but the candidates met the expectations that a company like LaLiga demands,” he says. “We’re now very proud to be able to call upon our delegates and pleased with the effort that they’ve all put in over all these months.
- “LaLiga is one of the few companies that has a presence the world over, and that’s why it’s our priority to get to know every market and every fan to find out how to interact and engage with them, as well as what to offer them.
- “The return on this project is immeasurable. Since the first delegate travelled to his destination, we’ve been receiving daily information that is crucial in our decision-making process on the international stage. Furthermore, their presence in strategic markets helps improve the exposure of our audiovisual product and our work with our sponsors.”