In the latest example of football clubs stretching beyond the traditional match-day fan experience—and their home borders—to capture and retain supporters, Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona and Spanish entertainment company Parques Reunidos are opening at least five Barça-branded experience spaces in locations across the world. More than theme parks, the initiative seeks to engage new audiences and key markets in the passion behind the Barça brand of fùtbol.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 16, 2018
The five-year deal, approved by Barcelona’s Assembly of Delegate Members last year, will see Parques Reunidos open large indoor parks in high-traffic urban areas across Europe, Asia and North America. These locations, according to FC Barcelona’s Vice President and Head of Marketing and Communications Manel Arroyo, “will help [the club] to project our image in strategic territories like the United States and Asian countries, offering our supporters a 100% Barça experience, and at the same generating a major source of income.”
Arroyo added that the parks will “set new trends in the entertainment industry,” a promise supported by the club’s statement that “visitors of different ages will be able to enjoy immersive experiences in this brand-new entertainment concept, based on the history, values, players and memorable moments of the club, blending interaction, new technologies, education and fun.”
While we will have to wait until at least 2020 to gauge the financial impact of these centers, the brand impact—and implications—are clearer. For FC Barcelona, as well as its European cohort of super clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, among others, the goal is increasingly to establish credibility not only as a global sports powerhouse but also as a global lifestyle and entertainment brand. Indeed, the latter is very much driving the former.
From the launch of club-specific TV streams and behind-the-scenes documentaries, eSports teams and offices and partners in countries across the globe that drive local content and fan engagements, clubs are stretching further off the pitch to command attention and loyalty from new and old fans alike.
For their part, potential fans further afield from these clubs’ traditional hotbeds of local support are seemingly in turn attracted not only by a club’s on-field exploits, but equally by its ability to deliver unique and impactful experiences that connect and reward those who identify as fans.
Clubs’ decisions to stretch their brands are not without challenges—witness the controversy over Barcelona’s recent loss to Levante, with manager Ernesto Valverde seemingly prioritizing an in-season friendly in South Africa over the club’s quest for a perfect domestic season—but the rewards for focus on commercial expansion and brand investment are clear.
FC Barcelona, according to Best Spanish Brands 2017, is the 21st most valuable brand in Spain, with a brand value of 470 million euros. And according to Forbes, FC Barcelona’s value has almost tripled in the last five years. As Barcelona continues to stretch into new spaces to capture market share in increasingly footie-focused China, Asia and the United States, it is clear that it is now and will continue to be ‘Més que un club,’ or more than just a club.
—Geoff Miller is Senior Manager, Client Services for Interbrand