LaLiga aims to penetrate into Indian cricket fan base with Rohit Sharma

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LaLiga is working in all seriousness to explore the 1.4 billion strong Indian market, which has been the target of a majority of global brands. The Spanish top division football league has a dedicated India office with a committed fulltime managing director and now one of India’s leading marketing icons – Rohit Sharma – as the league’s brand ambassador.

The Indian iconic cricketer will be the face of LaLiga India. The Spanish league had in the past tried to enhance their presence in India with compatriot and ace badminton star Caroline Marin, who has also been a household name in India.

The Spanish top division league is also working on enhancing its presence in the country by way of tie-ups with Indian football clubs and LaLiga Football Schools, set-up to train the students and teach them to play the ‘Spanish Way’.

In an exclusive interview with Insidesport.co, Jose Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director, LaLiga India shared his thoughts on the Indian football along with their decision of roping in a cricketer to promote football in India.

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InsideSport: What makes India an important market for LaLiga and what are your plans for this?
Jose Antonio Cachza: Well, you can look at it in from two perspectives. One is pure business. If you ask global brand managers in India, why you’re here they will tell you I come here to market to 1.4 billion people. This can be very misleading but you have a consumer market that probably is somewhere between 2 to 3 hundred million. That’s a huge market but that can apply even if I was selling costumes. So let’s look at football market in India.

Cricket is a religion here and it will always be the number one sport in the country. That’s out of our contention and we don’t want to get into competing with that. Even on television cricket garners the highest number of viewers. Pro Kabaddi League is the second league. However, if you add up the audience of all football leagues, football is clearly second most-watched sport on TV in India. That tells our story.

Second story – it’s true that football in India is seeing a growth in the metros recently. In a way, the growth of football among the middle class is a way of connecting with the new India that comprises of these young people.

We are making a huge investment in terms of our force and resources. It’s a soft investment in the sense that our goal is to be the brand. If I put it in a funny way, our product is 22 young guys running on shorts after the round piece of leather over grass, and this happens in Spain. This is what we are selling actually. The magic is that we are selling these to the world through TV, through games which can be a fantasy league or also watching on the net TV through Facebook. This is what we are doing and we are not selling it in a passive way. We are selling emotions, we are selling entertainment in a softer approach.

IS: You said football is growing in India. So what made you take a cricketer as the LaLiga brand ambassador?
JAC: The fact that football is growing is good for the growth of LaLiga and also for the growth of the number of fans. This is just another step in the path we are taking. Cricket is a religion in India and football is a religion in Spain. In a sense, symbolically it is a way of connecting the two countries and two sporting religions. Fans here love cricket, it is their number one sport. We want to grow with that audience and make football as their second sport and also to make LaLiga as their international favourite league. I think it can help us to increase our brand awareness right now and to increase the audience we have for our matches. So it is applied across the board in India.

IS: Is LaLiga planning to get the pre-season tour to India on a regular basis?
JAC: That’s not an easy question to answer. The basic problem is that clubs have really short windows of time where they can travel. This is usually the second half of July to Mid-August. In India, that is the peak monsoon season in most parts of the country. It is difficult to hold matches in India. For us at LaLiga, it’s not that easy to choose a venue. It will be either one of these locations or one of the big metro areas. We have to find a balance between locations where you have a good fan base, and also it’s an attractive place for sponsors. 

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IS: Your thoughts on the Indian football ecosystem?
JAC: Indian football is growing leaps and bounds but to be competitive it is important to grow to international standards. Sending your good players to train abroad is a step in that direction and we are doing everything possible to do so. We are also looking to build a healthy relationship between ISL clubs and LaLiga clubs. We even organized a seminar last November in Delhi where we brought all over first division clubs, and one of the highlights of the event was the interaction between ISL clubs and LaLiga clubs. As for our clubs playing in India, we are in talks with certain clubs. There’s nothing concrete yet, but let’s hope it happens again.

LaLiga has been making big strides among the top five European club football leagues. According to a sportingintelligence.com, ace LaLiga clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid have been world’s highest paying professional sports clubs for the second successive year.

Also Read: Rohit Sharma is LaLiga’s first Indian brand ambassador

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