Spanish football club Leganes into the big league with MBuzzsport partnership

How Leganes, a relatively small football club from the outskirts of Madrid secured its spot in La Liga, the biggest league in the world, and is now brokering sponsorship deals with Middle East companies.
Felipe Moreno says the partnership with MBuzzsport is the biggest deal in the club’s 80-year history. Victor Besa for The National
Felipe Moreno says the partnership with MBuzzsport is the biggest deal in the club’s 80-year history. Victor Besa for The National

“If you treat your business as if it is your family, you can do remarkable things,” says Felipe Moreno, explaining the ethos behind the success of his football club, Leganes.

As the owner of a relatively small club on the outskirts of Madrid, Mr Moreno has played an integral part in its rise from the brink of liquidation eight years ago, up through three divisions and into arguably the biggest league in the world.

To put the feat into perspective: on August 28, 2016, Leganes drew 0-0 with Atletico Madrid in its second match in the top league. The attendance at Leganes’ sold-out stadium was 11,000, while the ground of its opponent holds five times as many supporters.

It’s easy, however, for the newly promoted La Liga club’s vice-president to consider his business his home; his wife is the club’s president, one son is director of football and the other runs the physiotherapy department. In addition, other close family and associates help this mighty minnow outperform much richer competitors year on year.

Mr Moreno was speaking in Dubai at last week’s launch of Leganes’ partnership with the UAE’s MBuzzsport, a sports marketing subsidiary of MBuzz Group, a Saudi conglomerate. MBuzzsport has invested in the football club through the purchase of its shirt and stadium advertising rights which, the 57-year-old businessman explains, is the biggest deal in the club’s 80-year history.

“This partnership has been under discussion for many months, and it has now been finalised at a very exciting moment in the club’s history,” he says. The team will wear the branding of MBuzz or its selected partners on the front of its shirt each week. The only other Middle East companies to currently adorn the front-of-shirt position of La Liga teams are Emirates airline (Real Madrid) and Qatar Airways (FC Barcelona). However, MBuzzsport has packaged some of the sponsorship opportunities, including the shirt option. It means smaller companies in the region will have the chance to have their logo viewed by the league’s global audiences.

“Never before has a company been able to ‘trial’ shirt sponsorship short term and measure the marketing results,” says Zena Melki, MBuzzsport’s general manager, who says any brand can be a front shirt sponsor for a period of between five games and five months without being contracted to three to five-year deals. These, she adds, “typically cost several million euros per annum, right up to the €45m (Dh184.4m) Barcelona is reported to pay annually”.

The Middle East’s appetite for La Liga is hearty, with more than 25 million fans tuning in for live matches.

Ms Melki says the packages, which also include LED virtual technology (that superimposes adverts on to the stadium hoardings during matches), will give smaller companies the chance to “land some of the biggest games in the season, so small businesses can get the same audience as the world’s top teams.

“To put it in perspective, Emirates pays in excess of €1m per match for a sponsorship package, including shirt sponsorship, image, hospitality, advertising and association rights, while our offer will be much more affordable.”

This isn’t the company’s first foray into bringing Middle East brands to La Liga; the agency’s team previously brokered LED pitch-side advertising for Arabian Oud, which is ranked among the biggest perfume retailers in the world.

La Liga’s president, Javier Medrano, regularly mentions the Middle East as a key territory for the financial success and growth of the league, which opened its regional office in Dubai in 2014.

Mr Moreno understands the need to grow the club’s financial strength.

“We are a modest club, but in four years have been promoted three times to get to this position, so there is much improvement required in terms of our infrastructure,” he adds. “However, we also must remain on budget at all times.”

After promotion Leganes began work on the stadium’s facilities, including increasing capacity from 8,000 to 11,000 and expanding its youth programme. The club has also bought 13 new players for the final step up to the big league, but none are superstars – instead they have been largely picked from lower divisions teams.

“We had the lowest budget in Second Division B and were promoted, then we had the smallest resources in Second Division A and still made it to La Liga,” says Mr Moreno, who only eight years ago was a director at the club, becoming its owner during a financially difficult period when he bought shares to become 97 per cent shareholder.

“I am living a dream and am doing it as part of one big family,” he adds.

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Published: September 19, 2016 04:00 AM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one

Most Read