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Barcelona taps into IMG’s expertise in Chinese market

Spanish Liga football club Barcelona has entered into a strategic relationship with IMG for the agency to exclusively represent its commercial interests in mainland China.

The three-year deal covers brand and commercial strategy, sponsorship, friendly games and tours. Barcelona has a regional office in Hong Kong and in June signed its first Chinese commercial partner.

Electronic and technological goods retail chain Suning Company agreed a three-year deal with the club, running from 2014-15 to 2016-17. The partnership was brokered by the You First Sports agency.

Barcelona chief executive Ignacio Mestre said: “We have been impressed with the work that IMG has done in developing football in China and they are the perfect partner for us to strike a strategic relationship with. China is an important country for us to connect with our fans and to continue to succeed in and it is imperative that we work with a company that understands the China market and has a track record of success.”

IMG entered China in 1979 by taking boxing icon Muhammad Ali to the country and has since created, managed and advised more than 3,000 events across football, basketball, golf, tennis, fashion and other sports, cultural and lifestyle categories.

In 2008 IMG formed CCTV-IMG with state broadcaster China Central Television. Headquartered in Beijing, CCTV-IMG owns and produces live sporting events and television/multimedia programming.

IMG also has a long-term strategic partnership agreement with the Chinese Football Association’s Super League (CSL), formerly the Chinese Football Division-A League (Jia A) that IMG helped launch in 1994 and managed for 10 years. This wide-ranging partnership includes developing the CSL, improving the management of Chinese football clubs, advising on the development of athletic training programs, and event sponsorship.

Robbie Henchman, senior vice-president and head of IMG Asia Pacific, said: “Our unique experience and expertise in China will enable the club to further develop its interests across a number of areas and enhance the club’s already strong presence in a country we know very well.”