What: A new grassroots campaign, #BringUSTheGame, was launched last week by La Liga North America in support of the January 29 regular season club matchup between FC Barcelona and Girona FC.
Why it matters: La Liga and its U.S. partner Relevent Sports face opposition from some entities, including FIFA and the Spanish federation RFEF and are looking to push public opinion in its favor for the scheduled match.
Continuing its push to bring an actual league match between FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) and Girona FC (@GironaFC) to Miami on Jan. 29, LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) North America last week announced a grassroots campaign in support of the game, which has faced some opposition from other soccer entities. Under the theme “It’s good for the fans. It’s good for the game.” the #BringUSTheGame promotion includes a mobile alerts signup, online petition and extensive online presence for the contest at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Fans across the country are excited for the chance to see their heroes play here at home. We know that the love for soccer has been growing by leaps and bounds over the years in the United States. Having the best league in the world play this game in Miami will continue to energize the millions of fans in America and accelerate the growth of the US soccer fan base,” said Boris Gartner, CEO of LaLiga North America in a statement. “This game has the chance to be something special, with real points on the line, and it is our hope that American soccer fans will get to experience the game in person played at its highest level.”
#BringUSTheGame is the league’s attempt to win in another venue: the court of public opinion.
The top Spanish league has been one of the most proactive in extending their brand, and those of its clubs, in the U.S. and Latin America, with a variety of recent initiatives. The effort to bring this match, the first European club regular season to be held on U.S. soil, to Florida has been challenged by FIFA (@FIFAcom) and the Spanish Football Federation (@rfef), whose president, Luis Rubiales, feels “disrespected” in working with groups other than RFEF to organize. The main issue is that as a league match and not a friendly, RFEF believes it should have been consulted. (Or perhaps been “cut in” on the deal?)
So where to next? Clearly, there is a market for European football in the U.S., and La Liga in particular: when Real Madrid played FC Barcelona as part of the International Champions Cup in Miami last year, over 1.7 million viewers tuned in on ESPN. Relevent Sports, La Liga’s New York-based partner in plans to bringing a game to the U.S. in each of the next 15 years, wants to avoid the characterization of the effort as an “Astroturf” campaign.
The Portada Brand-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.
“As American sports clamor for exposure abroad and the major soccer clubs themselves look to grow their brands with marketing dollars here, this seems really counterintuitive,” said Harrie Bakst, a longtime sports marketer who has worked with elite teams and leagues in and out of soccer. “This seems more like a power play internally for dollars than a real disruption in the course of business for the clubs involved. if it doesn’t happen it says a lot about the short term growth issues clubs see vs. the bigger long term picture. My bet is that there is soccer in Miami in January, the first of what will be seen as a regular occurrence in the years to come.”
It could end up in the courts, as La Liga has indicated that it would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport should FIFA try to prevent the match from occurring. #BringUSTheGame is the league’s attempt to win in another venue: the court of public opinion. Stay tuned.
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