Real Betis’s upcoming friendly matches in the United States represent the first step of a long-term strategy to grow the club’s fanbase and revenues in North America.
The games – against Major League Soccer club DC United at Audi Field on May 22 and National Premier Soccer League team Chattanooga FC at Finley Stadium three days later – are the Seville-based club’s first in the States in its 112-year history.
“DC United called us [to arrange the friendly] and we thought it is a great opportunity because they are in the capital of the US and have a brand-new stadium and Wayne Rooney,” Ramón Alarcón, the Real Betis chief business officer, told SportBusiness.
“Chattanooga FC has a funding model similar to Real Betis. We have split shares in the club with 14,000 supporters so the club belongs to the fans and Chattanooga FC did something similar with a crowd-funding process. This is something that can help explain our story.”
The club will receive participation fees for both friendlies – which will help cover travel costs – and share in match-day revenues. Further trips to Mexico and to West Coast cities such as Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles are planned.
As part of the trip to Washington DC, Real Betis has planned a series of events, including a meeting with the Spanish embassy, a sports panel with different stakeholders, a media day with DC United and activations with the NBA’s Washington Wizards and MLB’s Washington Nationals. LaLiga North America is helping to organise and publicise these events.
“We have changed the mentality at the club in a new, professional way [in recent years],” Alarcón said. “TV rights are becoming more important for Spanish clubs and this is why we started to focus on an international strategy.
“Once we decided this, we looked at different markets and in my opinion the US market is the most healthy one, apart from the European ones, so it is a great opportunity, especially because the World Cup will be in North America in 2026 so the growth will be incredible.
“I convinced my colleagues on the board that we have to move our first-team squad abroad and this is the first time we have decided to do this as a marketing strategy. The world is so big and we think it is better to focus on just one market [North America] because if you go to different countries you don’t really establish your brand in these markets.”
At present, four per cent of Real Betis’s social media following comes from the US while 14 per cent comes from Mexico; Real Betis is eager to significantly increase its North American fanbase. The club also wants to attract North American companies as corporate partners but realises that it needs to grow its brand in the region first.
“This will be the first step to gain North American sponsors. When you want to sell something the first thing you need to do is to establish yourself in the market, so after our tour in DC it will be a great moment to talk to some companies to try to sell some sponsorships,” Alarcón says.
“It’s a long-term strategy, we want to establish our brand and become a well-known team and when we get there that will be the moment to [try to monetise it]. We are focused on activations and creating a specific strategy on digital for each of our sponsors, so it will be a good tour to link to all of our brands.”
Alarcón says Real Betis would be happy to participate in an official LaLiga game in the US – an initiative which is poised to be revived after a planned fixture between Barcelona and Girona was cancelled – but would want to come over as the designated away team so to not rob its fans of a home fixture.
Alarcón was talking at a Breakfast with LaLiga event in New York to promote El Gran Derbi, the rivalry between the two Sevilla clubs – Sevilla FC and Real Betis – which continues this Saturday at 2.45pm Eastern Time on US broadcaster beIN Sports. More Breakfast with LaLiga events with other clubs will take place in the future.