AC Milan enters into ‘industry-first’ deal with Roc Nation

Ante Rebic of AC Milan celebrates after scoring the fourth goal during the Serie A match against Juventus on July 7, 2020 (by Claudio Villa./Getty Images)

Italian Serie A football club AC Milan has agreed what it claims is a “unique, industry-first partnership” with sports and entertainment agency Roc Nation as it seeks to return to the top table in the European game.

Under the deal announced today (Thursday), the two parties said they will focus on philanthropy, music programming, merchandise collaboration, brand amplification and creative activation, digital strategy and execution, commercial sales and cultural events and experiences.

Today’s announcement formalises prior ties between Milan and Roc Nation, the agency formed by hip-hop artist and entertainment mogul Jay-Z. On May 3, the two parties collaborated to stage ‘From Milan with Love’, a virtual live event featuring performances from a host of global music artists which was designed to honour and pay tribute to key workers fighting Covid-19 in Italy and across the world.

Casper Stylsvig, chief revenue officer of AC Milan, said in a statement: “AC Milan as a club has always looked to push the boundaries and do things differently. This ambitious partnership will help us to showcase the power of the AC Milan and Roc Nation brands across sports, entertainment and lifestyle and provide us with some exciting new ways to engage with our fans and partners around the world. We showed a glimpse of what we are capable of by delivering the From Milan with Love event under extremely difficult circumstances and I can’t wait to build on this success.”

Michael Yormark, co-chief executive of Roc Nation Unified, added: “Both brands possess a strong commitment to community, which was evident through the success of From Milan with Love. I am looking forward to building on that success by creating more opportunities together that combine the integrity of the club’s rich history and Roc Nation’s signature ability to create and move culture.”

The Roc Nation deal comes with Milan attempting address a fall from grace, both on and off the pitch. The club is in the midst of its longest Serie A title drought since the 1980s and currently sits seventh in the 2019-20 table, two points behind Napoli in the final Uefa Europa League qualifying position of sixth, but 15 points behind city rival Inter, which currently occupies the final Champions League qualifying slot in fourth.

January’s Deloitte Football Money League for the 2018-19 season saw Milan drop to 21st with revenue of €206.3m ($233.8m). By contrast, Spanish LaLiga club Barcelona was said to have pulled in €840.8m to top the table.

In October, Milan posted a record loss of €145.9m for the financial year 2018, €20m more than the embattled club posted in the previous year. Overall turnover also fell by 6.1 per cent, to €241m. Milan has accumulated losses of over €500m over the past six seasons, due, like its neighbour Inter, to dropping out of the Champions League over that period.

Speaking to the Associated Press news agency, Stylsvig said Milan is looking to take inspiration from another European giant that had fallen on lean times, before bouncing back in recent seasons. “Four, five years ago, no one considered Liverpool and see where they are now,” Stylsvig said.

“They obviously play very attractive football. They are winning, they have a fantastic manager, a fantastic team and now they are following suit from a commercial perspective. It has taken time, but their model seems to work.”

Regarding the goals of the Roc Nation tie-up, Stylsvig said: “We are obviously a global brand. I’ve probably been talking too much in the Italian market in the last few years and (Covid-19) sort of pushed us to think more global again.

“I do think merging sport and entertainment could be the way of engaging new fans. The world has changed dramatically and we need to follow suit. Roc Nation is helping us, challenging us with that, having someone on the sideline to do that.”

Milan also has another major project it is working on. Milan and Inter are seeking to develop a stadium and sports and entertainment district on the site of their current home, the San Siro. The plans would see part of the current San Siro retained as part of a multi-purpose complex alongside a new 60,000-seat stadium.

In September, the clubs presented two design concepts for the stadium they envision will replace the historic San Siro. Two concepts, from Manica/Sportium and Populous, are vying for the contract, with a decision expected soon.

Regarding the new stadium, Stylsvig said: “That will change the club. The revenues are incredibly important but also for the perception of the club.”