LONDON: Adolfo Bara, the Spanish league’s marketing director, has described China’s recent rapid, high-profile growth into the global football market as unlike anything he had ever witnessed in his career.
A mass land grab is underway in China as European brands try to take advantage of more and more Chinese football fans coming online, looking to interact with European leagues.
Bara said: “The market in China is so huge, so unique, especially that the government has just passed a ‘football law’, which means they will teach football at school level… A lot of money is coming into the Chinese Super League, to the Chinese Football Association.
“It’s growing so quickly. They are signing players, they are signing coaches. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. We need to capitalise and make sure that La Liga is there to do the proper things, and make sure that La Liga has a proper presence in that market.”
La Liga have already made a key change to their strategy in order to attract more Chinese viewers – it was something as simple as changing kick off times.
“Two and a half years ago we decided to start having, every Saturday at 4pm, one game of Real, one game of Barca, one game of Atletico Madrid and another relevant game a month.” said Bara. “That 4pm kick off meant 10pm or 11pm in China, depending on the winter or summer. Just with that small change we were able to go from number three in CCTV ratings to be number one. It was almost a 50% increase.”
La Liga’s overall goal is clear: to haul in the English Premier League, that has for years been the world’s dominant league. Bara said that the commercial gap between La Liga and Premier League had “absolutely’ come down.
“It’s closed up already when it comes to TV rights, our recent rights deal was very impressive, we’re getting closer there.” continued Bara. “When it comes to sponsors, looking at the money we are turning over, it has tripled in the last three years. It’s making us look very competitive compared to the Premier League.”
La Liga boasts two of the sport’s most recognisable brands in Real Madrid and Barcelona, which any league in the world would kill to have. However it is their blessing and their curse. Barca and Real are so big that La Liga as a brand, is overshadowed by them. Bara admitted the fate of the La Liga brand is very much tied into Barca and Real’s reputation:
“The fact that we have, in my opinion, the two best two football teams in the world in Real Madrid and Barcelona, who guarantee the best players in the world play in their teams, is great for us. They are our best ambassadors.
“Our challenge is to build the La Liga brand on the back of their success, at the same time we will help them keep growing in the market. I think that the stronger the La Liga brand is, the stronger their brands will be as well, not to mention the other teams in the league.”