The beautiful game is steadily growing in popularity in North America and La Liga wants a big piece of the pie. Spain’s top league is prepared to roll out an aggressive North American strategy that starts with a joint media venture between the league and Relevant, the sports marketing agency behind the International Champions Cup.
Dubbed La Liga North America, the organization plans to invest $10 million in its first three years with a focus on on-the-ground activations and a video content strategy across social media and various streaming platforms.
The end goal? Make La Liga’s broadcasting rights in North America a juggernaut, just like the English Premier League and NBC Sports have (The American broadcaster bought the rights to the most popular league in the world for $1 billion in 2015). The road to matching that success, according to La Liga, is first attracting Spanish-speaking and bilingual Hispanics with an aggressive video strategy that includes 200 episodes of produced daily shows and match highlights. The next phase will be to capture the attention of English-speaking Hispanics and the general soccer audience.
On a global level, La Liga’s digital strategy has been fruitful. During the 2017-18 season, their video and foreign language-focused content strategy gave way to a social following that grew at rates often higher than the NBA and the Premier League. The hill to climb in North America is steep, though, despite La Liga having two of the most well known clubs in the world featured prominently in the U.S. Last month, Barcelona and Real Madrid were among the most-featured teams on American television, but the most-watched matches were from Liga MX and the English Premier League.
The league has also made it clear it’s trying to reach beyond a purely digital and broadcasting strategy. They’ve opened an office in New York City, but their efforts to activate fans on the ground across America have produced varying degrees of success so far. Their El Clasico watch parties in cities like Miami and New York City have brought out hundreds and thousands of fans to outdoor events, but the most notable attempt to bring a physical experience to North American La Liga fans has been met with resistance.
Last summer, the league and Relevant announced their agreement to bring at least one league match to America every season for 15 years. The announcement brought immediate backlash from local fans and players, many of whom threatened to boycott games in protest. Eventually, the plan was put on the back-burner as teams began pulling out of the agreement. As recently as February though, Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu has publicly backed playing as many as three games a season overseas.
The success of La Liga’s efforts to capture the North American audience are yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: you’re going to be seeing a lot more Spanish soccer.