The first memory of Spanish football in America is not the most pleasant. 19 Basque players, a British coach – the famous ‘Mister’ Harris – and a journalist set sail on June 27, 1922 from Lisbon and crossed the Atlantic aboard Cap Polonio to arrive in Buenos Aires (Argentina) two weeks later, the July 13.
They were received by a large part of the Basque society that had emigrated to the Río de la Plata, and almost without resting, they faced a Buenos Aires team. “For lack of a person to watch over the players and impose his authority on the ship, there were players who in the few days of the voyage gained from four to five kilos …”, said one of its members, Belaustegigoitia, in a testimony collects the web History of Basque football. They lost 4 to 0 against the locals.
A century later, the picture is completely different. What began as an additional resource to pay the meager salaries of a sport that began to become professional in the early twentieth century has become a phenomenon that moves hundreds of millions of people and is among the giants of entertainment. LaLiga Santander is today one of the most prestigious competitions, it has representatives in more than 80 countries and its teams travel to all corners of the planet to be close to their fans.
But this year, the bet transcends the teams and it is the organization itself that has created LaLiga Exhibition, a traveling exhibition, with cutting-edge technology, which, from next August, will take the show, the emotion and the entertainment around the world .
The expedition will begin this time in Mexico and visitors will be able to experience, in a virtual environment, what it is like to go out into the field through the tunnel, listen to the technical talk in a changing room or undergo a press conference in front of dozens of journalists. In other words, they will feel like elite footballers for a day.
Why Latin America? Óscar Mayo, LaLiga’s Director of Business, Marketing and International Development, responds: “There are two reasons: the first is because of the obvious cultural and language links that unite us to the region.
This means that LaLiga is lived there in a very special way and that the public is very demanding of this type of activations. The second is that there has been a group of important Spanish and Latin American businessmen who from the beginning showed great interest in starting this precious adventure there ”.
The idea came from the LaLiga Franchise and Licensing team, led by Stephen Ibbotson, who has more than 20 years of experience in the industry and who was, among other things, head of sponsorships for FC Barcelona and Marketing Director of RCD Espanyol de Barcelona (coincidentally the first LaLiga team to tour America in 1925).
The Ibbotson working group is in charge of devising and designing new products through all the assets that LaLiga can give as an organization and markets them. “It is what we call a proprietary license, a product designed and developed by LaLiga and licensed to a third party for its exploitation,” explains Ibbotson.
About 20 people from different LaLiga departments have worked on the development of LaLiga Exhibition. “We are already present in Latin America, not only through the broadcast of matches, but also thanks to our local sponsors, events and the players themselves from each country. But we wanted to focus on what LaLiga is as a whole: its values and its clubs in an entertainment proposal so that the fans and those who are not that much know us very closely, ”says Ibbotson.
A virtual tour of LaLiga Exhibition. THE LEAGUE
In this way, says the expert, LaLiga ensures that the product, the exhibition, is similar in any part of the world, something fundamental for its brand image. LaLiga Exhibition goes hand in hand with the three main objectives of the organization, according to Ibbotson: “Increase the recognition and value of the brand globally, bring the competition and the clubs closer to millions of fans and generate new sources of income for the teams”.
In America, for the next four years, the project will be carried out by a Galician company, Global Events Latinoamerica, of which the Chilean businessman Andrés Navarro and the Spanish Ignacio Rivera are part. Its CEO, Manuel Gago, has worked for several years on that continent as a representative of different Galician companies.
Its goal is to have at least one million visitors in the next four years between Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Peru. “We take care of generating everything. From the beginning. We look for the place, we see the companies that can carry it out, the idiosyncrasies of each country … And, furthermore, we go hand in hand with the LaLiga Global Network delegates, who represent the organization in each of those countries “, says Gago .
The coordinator of all of them, Octavi Anoro, who was LaLiga’s delegate in Japan until 2019, underlines the importance of having employees close to where things happen. “The local intelligence of the delegates is the key.
They have the market controlled, the right relationships, they make everything much easier. They are 15 minutes by taxi from each provider or partner. They understand where our events can be organized in the city ”.
So much so that many times it is the organization itself that plans the clubs’ trips or helps them with logistical and business issues in the countries they visit. Anoro highlights the tours of Sevilla FC in Tanzania, Real Betis in the United States, Villarreal CF in Argentina.
“We support these tours, we set up agendas, events, local events, corporate social responsibility activities or meetings with relevant media” , stresses. This time it is LaLiga who goes on tour on their own and in every corner they have a solid structure so that the trip is successful.