The Factory for Idols – Latin America is Banking on Unique Talents for Growth

Latin America is leveraging its culture of developing great players to grow its own market, home and abroad. We spoke to LATAM experts to understand the current ambitions.

From Ronaldo and Carlos Valderrama to Lionel Messi, Neymar and Edinson Cavani: Latin America produces top talent continuously. The most recent exports to European football are Vinícius Júnior, who is thriving at Real Madrid right now, or Rodrygo. In European football, players from the LATAM area have always been an important ingredient, they’ve brought joy to the fans on so many occasions. Yet, the football cultures overseas and in Europe are quite different – and European fans barely take too much interest in Latin American leagues, it seems. But since the LATAM superstars and top talents show time and time again, football is a universal languange. Therefore, and with internationalisation via Social Media or eSports being a multifarious approach, global markets can benefit of each other’s strengths.

A closer look into the LATAM football culture: Letting experts have their say

From our European perspective, football circles around the big leagues – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga – or the European competitions, mainly the Champions League. All these games have a specific appeal for global audiences, too. In terms of monetisation and forward-thinking development for clubs and federations, a more international approach is inevitable. Clubs harness their Social Media reach or their connection to different types of audiences via eSports presence in order to grow in various markets – be it Asia, the US or even Latin America.

But then again, in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and so forth, there are always quite fascinating developments as well. While the marketing coup from Chilean Club Deportivo O’Higgins might not have gone down well with all fans, Brazilian club Corinthians from São Paulo have just teamed up with IBM in a ten-year partnership that will see them modernise their stadium and the fan experience due to AI technologies. Luis Paulo Rosenberg, marketing director of the club, said:

We are convinced of the benefits that a global partner like IBM can bring to Corinthians in general and to the Arena in particular, making the convergence of technologies and Artificial Intelligence key to a new era of possibilities for the fans, improving the experience of each and every Corinthians fan during and after the match day […] Everything will change, and the passion, that’s always the same, will find new ways of expression from today on.

Change is indeed finding its way to LATAM football clubs as digital offerings complement the solutions to make most of the often unrivalled passion of supporters from Columbia to Argentina. Streaming services like Spotify and Deezer start partnerships with big clubs like Boca Juniors or São Paulo FC.

And with fans worldwide experiencing football more and more via OTT services, Social Media or streaming platforms, there are certainly less boundaries for different cultures and markets in a more globalised football ecosystem.

We wanted to know how the very different football world on another continent and with presumably another perspective positions itself to compete with prosperous markets like the European football or burgeoning markets like the MLS. Therefore, we talked to some experts from abroad to understand just how the LATAM football market utilises comparatively small budgets to create unique and sought after talents and solutions. Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui, directors and co-founders of Good Morning Sports and the conference SportBizLatam gave us some quality insights. Their conference offers the sports industry of LATAM a great opportunity to not only connect but to make developments happen – across the world.

It takes place in various contries in Latin Ameica, from Bolivia to Brazil, from Uruguay to Argentina. Next up are Santa Cruz, El Salvador and Bogotá. Good Morning Sports is a sports business agency with a focus on international marketing and best practices for the professionalisation of solutions in sports. Partners are the Hawk-Eye technology, the Johan Cruyff Institute, Genius Sports Stubbub, UFC, Zurich or Santander. So, let’s take a look at their perspective on the growth development of the LATAM football market – and why we can learn a lot from it, as it’s an “idol factory“.

The interview with Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui

Spielmacher: In your opinion, what distinguishes the LATAM football culture most from that in Europe?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Football is a very affordable sport. It can be played everywhere, that is one of the reasons of its popularity in LATAM, being the most adopted, practiced and followed sport. On the positive side I would say one of the main differences is the fan passion. The link between a fan and his/her club is of total loyalty. On the downside, in some countries stadiums are not safe enough to make the transformation from a match to a show possible. And families are not so often in the stadiums yet. There are still some violent behaviours that need to be eradicated to convert the matches into real shows and to grow the fan experience. Clubs in this region are still in a process of becoming more and more professional, hiring experts for each area and starting to act, work and plan as companies, enterprises and institutions do.

Do clubs in LATAM actively look for options to augment their monetisation potential in Europe, the US or Asia? What are they focusing on?

Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui, © Good Morning Sports

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The main foreign income source for LATAM clubs are player transfers. However, the most popular clubs are also working with international license and sponsorships. The key is to create different income sources through new products and fan services. The clubs tend to copy and adapt good practices from abroad (USA, Europe) with a local component and the super challenge of tighter budgets, which sometimes leads to creating amazing strategies with few resources.

La Liga has plans to play league matches abroad. Would the Argentinian Primera División or another league from the continent consider such an option, too?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The last Libertadores final was played in Madrid, unfortunately not for the right reasons (it was due to violent incidents in Buenos Aires), but represented a new business opportunity for showing LATAM football in other continents. We believe this will be the case more and more often. Also in Latam most of the countries have extensive territories, and some competitions (for example ‘La Copa Argentina’) are using different host cities across the country in order to reach fans who don’t have the possibility to travel to the capital to follow their teams.

Facebook has secured free to air rights for the Champions League in LATAM from 2018 to 2021. Will these reception opportunities for fans help make European football and the respective teams more attractive for the audience? And will it impair the relevance of clubs from their home countries?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: European Football in LATAM is already relevant. Now it will be reached, and watched, more easily. Audiences will grow and this will end up affecting local football in terms of volume as people will follow the most attractive competition and show, and that is European football nowadays. We believe local clubs and leagues have a big challenge to retain audiences and sponsors, as they will compete more and more with international clubs. Clubs need to improve their sponsorship strategies, activations and metrics.

From your experience, are broadcasters in LATAM increasingly interested in showing different leagues to offer a broad and international package like Social Media do?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Broadcasters are already including new international content. We believe the challenge is to create an attractive format, especially in the case of leagues or competitions which aren’t as popular yet in the region. For example, in Argentina the Chinese League is not very much followed, but if a broadcaster presents a 2 minute recap, only with the highlights, this will be consumed.

The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A or the Primera División de Argentina aren’t too well known or followed in Germany and probably other European countries, too. With the biggest leagues – the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga – vying for attention already, shouldn’t leagues from LATAM rather try to gain more followers in countries like China, that are adopting the sports more and more?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: For sure, US and Asian audiences are appealing in terms of volume and more unexploited opportunities. Some clubs and federations are already having their first Asian sponsors. And a great opportunity is that Asians love and adore ‘idols’ and LATAM is an idol factory! However, the approach towards new regions and international fans also depends on a solid growth strategy and resources assigned to make it happen.

eSports is becoming a way to leverage fans’ investment and awareness regarding video games. There are eSports sections at FC Santos or Boca Juniors. Has this concept been widely adopted? And do you think it will help the clubs gain international recognition via this sports?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: eSports in LATAM is just starting; it already has followers and early adopters but it hasn’t exploded, yet. Only edgy brands are starting to support this competitions. For example, in Argentina the eSuperLiga is sponsored by RedBull. However, LATAM represents a big interest as a market because of its large audiences. Leagues from abroad are also taking advantage of the early stages and are entering the territory, developing projects that will grow faster because of the experience gained in their origin countries and their best practices. We do think this could be another way for the clubs to gain more international recognition, especially reaching young millennial audiences all over the world.

How important do you think are the LATAM audiences to European clubs? Are they trying to edge into the market over there? And is it just top teams from the Champions League or are smaller clubs also engaged?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: LATAM represents large audiences for European clubs, a way to grow substantially in terms of audience and fans. Football is part of the culture itself; we consume football from everywhere. A key factor is that every latam country has some of their national idols playing abroad. Not only in the biggest European teams, but also in smaller ones, results in those teams being followed by the player compariots. The players have their own fan equity, it helps the clubs in reaching and growing enormously the amount of fans from the player’s country. Then, as a consequence, local brands begin to show interest in becoming sponsors.

How much attention pay LATAM audiences to the Bundesliga, or, in comparison, the Premier League?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The Bundesliga still has a great area of opportunities to grow in LATAM. Their strategy developing content in Spanish is helping in this regard. FC Bayern Munich is the most followed club of the league, and it is related to its LATAM players [like James Rodríguez, editors note].

Finally, what can clubs, associations or brands learn from the LATAM football culture?

Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Basically the export of talented players is a great deal. All the clubs work in this regard and it is the main contribution from the region to the world sport. Additionally – and not only in football or sports – what characterizes Latam is the capability of developing amazing unique strategies, with low resources and budget, but with high creativity, commitment and determination.

Thanks so much for the interview. We wish you and the whole LATAM football ecosystem continuous success.

Our interview partners Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui manage the agency Good Morning Sports and are the creators of the SportBizLatam. Get in touch, if you want to know more about the conference, their solutions or the LATAM football ecosystem.

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