IMG and Perform claim Conmebol rights in $1.4bn deal
By Martin Ross
Conmebol, the South American soccer confederation, has named a joint bid from IMG, the international sports marketing agency, and Perform, the digital sports content and media group, as the winner in the race to sell broadcast and sponsorship rights to its club competitions from 2019 to 2022.
IMG and Perform emerged successful after offering a minimum guarantee of $1.4 billion, or $350 million per season.
The heavyweight duo defeated a joint offer from Synergy Football and Infront Sports & Media, the Switzerland-based agencies, a proposal from rival MP & Silva, and a bid from SportPromotion, the Brazilian sports marketing agency.
The four-year deal covers the top-tier Copa Libertadores, second-tier Copa Sudamericana and the Recopa Sudamericana, the annual contest between the winners of the two competitions.
In bidding for the rights, IMG and Perform set up a joint venture - financed and resourced on an equal basis - covering the global sale of media rights, sponsorship and consultancy, plus consultancy on the development of the competitions, including digital strategy.
Announcing the agreement, Alejandro Domínguez, the president of Conmebol, said: “This contract represents a huge advance towards our strategic goal of generating more value for the development and growth of South American football. We think big, we did things well, and today we achieved a great result, since the guaranteed minimum represents more than double the income of the previous business cycle.
“The winning consortium, which also works with LaLiga, the Premier League, Nascar and the NBA, among others, has the proven ability to optimise the revenue generated by our club tournaments, which are the most exciting in the world.”
On the sponsorship front, IMG has been marketing rights for the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Copa Libertadores, while Synergy Football, an agency set up by Patrick Murphy, formerly of Team Marketing, has a similar contract for the Copa Sudamericana.
Fox Networks Group presently holds broadcasting rights to the competitions in a deal running from 2016 to 2018.
IMG worked alongside Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer, to sell the worldwide commercial rights to the 2016 Copa América Centenario, a special centenary edition of the national teams tournament.
Ioris Francini, co-president of WME-IMG, said that the joint venture will “provide a bespoke and innovative solution, designed to radically enhance the commercial programme and presentation” of the competitions, and “change the approach towards the core fans and the broader audiences too.”
Simon Denyer, Perform’s chief executive, added that the joint venture would “ensure that Conmebol will benefit from the combined digital and commercial expertise of the two companies, and we look forward to delivering a world-leading consultancy and commercial strategy for them.”
Conmebol stated that it is “not ruled out” that the $1.4-billion minimum guarantee will be exceeded in the 2019-2022 rights sales process involving IMG and Perform.
The continental federation shortlisted four offers for the rights following the 5 September bid deadline.
Synergy, whose first remit was to sell Copa Sudamericana sponsorships and also works with the CBF, the Brazilian soccer federation, teamed up with Infront in order to be able to offer a sizeable minimum guarantee, and the duo are thought to have bid aggressively for the rights.
MP & Silva has targeted the Americas as an area of growth and has been involved in drawing up a blueprint for an Americas Champions League featuring leading teams from across the Americas, and the issue of just how far that competition could be developed is sure to have been part of any proposal to Conmebol in attempting to assuage the continental body.
MP & Silva has held discussions with both Conmebol and Concacaf, the governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, with regard to the creation of the ACL, an idea first championed by Riccardo Silva, the agency’s co-founder.
Ten companies had been cleared to participate in Conmebol’s tender process, with those losing out including prominent international sports agencies such as Lagardère Sports and Mediapro, the Spanish agency and production firm with significant interests in South America, plus the B4 Advisory agency.
Dominguez emphasised in July that Conmebol would not be dealing with individuals such as Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of the Torneos agency, and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis of the Full Play agency, who were named in the US Department of Justice probe that is at the centre of a bribery and corruption scandal that implicated officials throughout the Americas with links to Fifa.
IMG was recruited to market the Copa América Centenario as Conmebol (and Concacaf) took the rights in-house after a settlement was reached with Datisa, the troubled agency that had previously held the rights.
Datisa was formed by Brazil’s Traffic Sports and Argentinian agencies Torneos and Full Play, all of which were implicated in ‘Fifa-gate’, the scandal which came to a head in 2015.
The Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana international media rights agreement with Fox was only made possible by Conmebol unilaterally terminating a contract with T&T Sports Marketing, a Cayman Islands shell company 75-per-cent owned by Fox Sports Latin America, which had signed a deal with Traffic Sports to handle the rights to the clubs competitions.
Fox Sports Latin America denied any wrongdoing and the parent company has stressed that it had no operational control over any of the agencies involved in Fifa-gate.
Conmebol said last night that the appointment of the IMG-Perform joint venture “takes place within the framework of the profound reforms that the administration of president Domínguez has been implementing since January 2016 to professionalize and [make] transparent the governance of South American football.”
The Paraguay-based federation added: “As a requirement to participate, all companies were subjected to a rigorous integrity examination. In addition, in order to guarantee the transparency of the process, it had the legal advice of Brigard Urrutia and the external audit of Ernst & Young.
"Likewise, the reception of offers was attended by a clerk of the Republic of Paraguay as an official notary. The entire process was openly communicated and rigorously documented. Finally, before the full Council, the President of the Audit and Compliance Committee of Conmebol, an independent control body, certified the transparency and thoroughness throughout the bidding process.”