New law forces Sevilla into shirt sponsor hunt; club looks to globalise brand
By Susan Lingeswaran
Sevilla, of Spanish soccer’s top-tier LaLiga, are in discussions with a number of potential shirt sponsors to replace online bookmaker Marathonbet from next year after the Spanish government green-lit a law that restricts gambling advertising in the country.
Marathonbet only signed up as Sevilla's main sponsor last year in a two-year deal worth a reported €5 million ($5.6 million) per season.
However, earlier this month, Spain’s council of ministers approved the formal passage of the ‘Royal Decree on Advertising’, which bans sponsorship deals with betting operators and only permits gambling advertising between 1am and 5am across traditional media.
Across LaLiga and the second-tier Segunda Division, 11 out of 42 sides have a betting company as their main sponsor. Those teams have been given a transition period to the end of the current season in May, with 30 August, 2021 the specific deadline for when existing sponsorships much be cancelled.
Speaking on a virtual media conference yesterday, Ramon Loarte, Sevilla’s marketing director, said that with the law set to change, the club has started negotiations with a number of brands to replace Marathonbet and would look to find an alternative as soon as possible.
In response to a question from Sportcal, Loarte said: “This law is going to affect us and another nine or 10 first division teams directly because we have a betting company advertising on our shirts and there is now no doubt that the legislation will not allow us to continue to have this level of sponsorship after the end of this season.
“In that regard, the betting companies that wish to continue to collaborate with football clubs will have to buy a sponsorship package that reduces their visibility and restricts it to things that are outside of Spain and this affects us directly because this sponsorship agreement [with Marathonbet] we use in all our matches for LaLiga and within Europe.
“We are beginning to have negotiations and conversations with other brands which in recent years have shown an interest in embarking on sponsorship agreements with the club and like all other clubs affected by this we are trying to find a solution as soon as possible.”
The conference, hosted by Jose Maria Cruz, Sevilla’s chief executive, along with the club’s general sports director Monchi and Loarte, was held to announce the club’s new global strategy and plans to reach new fans around the world.
Cruz said the club was looking to expand throughout the world with a renewed image, inspired by the culture and origins of the city, and through a number of global partnerships. One of the first initiatives is set to be a long-term deal with an Indian Super League club in an effort to help Indian soccer grow and to increase the club’s activities overseas.
Asked about some of the global partnerships Sevilla has in the pipeline, and which markets they were looking at entering, Cruz said: “The world is very large and we must make take into account our resources, and not just financial but people as well because we have a series of projects and we like to get fully involved so we’ve decided to distribute our efforts initially but we aren’t ruling any markets out or any countries.
“We are going to be announcing our India project next week and it’s a partnership which goes beyond collaboration with a football club and China is something that fascinates everyone but is very complicated.
“Latin America is smaller but for us it is very interesting for us there. In the past we’ve had some collaborations with El Salvador and we would like to have the opportunity to do things with Panama and Costa Rica. I think we have things to do there and that we can also learn from in those markets.
“We have a great vocation to continue with some initiatives that we have already started in the past and that we want to resume in the future as soon as possible in the United States and Mexico.”
Earlier this year, it was reported Sevilla was looking into acquiring Veracruz, the Mexican club, but the project was scrapped due to the economic effects of the pandemic.
Cruz added all its future projects overseas would only be in markets where LaLiga has offices and the club would be utilising the league’s network of ambassadors to help them build their partnerships.
He cited a joint project with LaLiga in Tanzania and added the club would be looking to find more local partners that have the same beliefs and enthusiasm as them.
A part of its domestic growth strategy, Cruz said the club is currently in the middle of modernising and refurbishing its Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, as well as planning to build a sports complex for player training and administration of the club.
He said: “In the short term we have been able to finalise the refurbishment of some of the stadium, the main grand stands, we have new facilities there, hospitality, a new business centre where people can hold meeting so it is more modern and comfortable these days, and the objective is to carry out refurbishment of the rest of the building work and improve the grand stands.
“We also have this sports centre project but that has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic but we hope that will start in a year’s time. If Covid-19 had not appeared, we would now be working on phase one of our sports complex but we will most likely start before the end of 2021, depending on the state of the world.
“We are a sound club and the financial entities will support us and they know we will always repay our loans so fortunately enough we have been gaining importance in the last few years but things have been put on hold. However, I am certain in the future, we will continue to grow.”
Over the past few years, the club has embarked on a digital transformation with the launch of its Business Intelligence Centre, a platform for storing data on its players and fans.
Since then, on top of player tracking and data, information including data on purchases of food and drink at the stadium, shirt sales in the club store and ticket sales sold on the website are now anonymised and used to build profiles of the club and its fans, allowing for a more personalised approach.
Speaking on future investment plans into data management, Verdejo said: “We have an investment plan that is growing and we have placed a lot of attention and invested a huge amount in this but not just on the sports side but we want to create a department to provide other departments of the club with information, marketing, social media communication and travel.
“It’s not just a question of focusing on the sports side of things, but we want to make it a department that supplies all other areas of the club with information.”
Cruz added that while the club was looking to limit its costs this season, the board of directors had decided to continue its investment into innovation and development by setting up a new in-house team to develop new technology that will help the club in the future.
He said: “These projects are tremendously ambitious at a time when times are difficult in general but we are going to devote €500,000 to setting up this project that will eventually grow over time.
“This will not only be a business objective or initiative but what we want to do is open up to world universities and start-ups that will be able to develop technological projects that can be applied practically in the world of football.
“We want to lead the industry in terms of technological development so that the tools that are needed can be applied much better.”