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  • Writer's pictureSPSG Consulting

The Interview - Ignacio Mochales , Director at LEWaterpolo

Thanks to Ignacio Mochales, director of the Spanish water polo leagues office (LEWaterpolo) for his generosity in sharing with us his vision of the sports sector and, in particular, of water polo, one of the sports that, at club and National Team level (both male and female) generates more success for Spain. The LEWaterpolo is a joint project between the Royal Spanish Swimming Federation (RFEN) and the Division of Honor water polo clubs that was created in the spring of 2022. SPSG Consulting participated, since 2020, in the strategic design of strengthening the water polo leagues in Spain and in the conceptualization and implementation of LEWaterpolo in 2021 and 2022.

You have extensive experience in the sports industry, having worked for several years at FIFA and now, for almost 2 years, directing the Office of Spanish Waterpolo Leagues (LEWaterpolo). What have been the main characteristics of the evolution of the sport in Spain in recent years?

In recent years, the sports industry in Spain has lagged behind other industries in digital transformation, professionalization and equality, but recently a change in this trend is on the horizon. A growing number of sports organizations are embracing digital transformation, recognizing that this not only improves internal processes, but also attracts fans and potential sponsors. I believe technology plays a key role in transforming the sports experience, with increased digitization, broadcast improvements and engagement through social media. This change not only affects how sport is consumed, but also how organizations interact with their audience.

Since the end of the last decade there has been a notable increase in the level of professionalization of workers in sports organizations. Universities and business schools have taken notice of this change and have responded to the demand from these organizations by offering specific programs to train professionals in sport management.

In addition, society is becoming aware of the positive impact that sport can have on citizens' health and its contribution to the fight for gender equality. Although soccer remains the king of sports, other sports have managed to find their space and adapt to more accessible schedules to increase their visibility. I believe this change reflects an evolution towards a more inclusive sports industry adapted to the changing demands of society.

Less than two years ago the Office of Spanish Waterpolo Leagues (LEWaterpolo) was created. What are the main objectives and lines of action of LEWaterpolo?

The Waterpolo Leagues Office is a joint project between the Royal Spanish Swimming Federation and the Division of Honor water polo clubs. Its main objective is to increase the visibility of the Division of Honor water polo leagues: Women's Division of Honor and Men's Division of Honor.

The office was created in April 2022 and, in July 2022, the LEWaterpolo (the league's official name) strategic plan was approved with three core values and ten objectives. The league's values are sustainability, equality and health. We are the first sustainable league in Spain, we allocate the same resources to the women's league and the men's league, and we use swimming and water polo as a tool to improve health.

Los diez objetivos abarcan diversos aspectos cruciales para el desarrollo y fortalecimiento de la competición:

  • Image: improve the league's image, design and institutional relations.

  • Digital transformation: renew the website, mobile application and social networks.

  • Visibility: increase the presence of the leagues in the media.

  • Broadcasting: improve the quality and accessibility of match broadcasts.

  • Competitions: optimize the format and organization of competitions.

  • Social impact: use water polo as a tool to generate positive social impact.

  • Sponsors: attract and manage sponsorships to strengthen financial support.

  • Professionalization: raise the level of professionalism in league management and development.

  • Financing: establish new strategies to ensure sustainable financing.

  • Internal resources: optimize the use of available resources within the federation and clubs.

The objective of this strategic plan is to improve all relevant aspects of the water polo leagues: from our public image to internal management and financial sustainability.

Sponsorship certainly goes far beyond brand visibility, and more and more companies are conceptualizing it in a strategic way, integrating objectives of brand reputation, revenue generation, hospitality, market expansion, alignment with customer loyalty strategy, alignment with talent loyalty strategies, etc. What are the main axes of LEWaterpolo's value proposition for sponsoring brands?

LEWaterpolo's value proposition for sponsoring brands is based on several strategic axes to maximize the partnership and generate mutual benefits.

Firstly, we offer visibility thanks to the more than 218,000 followers on social networks that we have as clubs and LEWaterpolo. Together we provide unique content on our channels to be the reference for the Premier Division leagues.

LEWaterpolo provides significant audience engagement, allowing brands to connect with a fan base passionate about the sport. This engagement goes beyond visibility, with the goal of building lasting relationships with consumers. Clubs have over 194,000 customers with a fairly similar profile, making them a very important asset for sponsors.

The proposal also incorporates a social impact component, giving brands the opportunity to partner with social initiatives supported by LEWaterpolo. We are the first sustainable league in Spain thanks to the sustainability seal of the Spanish Olympic Committee. This implies a series of obligations such as looking for suppliers and sponsors that are committed to environmental, social and economic sustainability. We offer sponsors the possibility of working with a company that shares their values and has common goals. Together we develop sustainable projects and campaigns to increase sponsors' visibility.

Our digital transformation is key, providing brands with a strong presence on online platforms, social networks and digital broadcasts to reach a wider and more connected audience.

Finally, we offer a measurable return on investment, providing brands with detailed metrics and analysis to assess the real impact of their investment in partnering with our league.

These combined axes form a comprehensive value proposition that seeks to maximize benefits for sponsoring brands.

The axis of Sustainability, both social and environmental (apart, obviously, from the economic one, which is also supported by an adequate Governance), is of strategic importance for companies and entities related to sport. Water polo is one of the most successful sports in recent years, both at national team and club level. From your expert point of view, what is the importance of incorporating the axes of social and environmental sustainability in sport and what are the main challenges? And what is the importance of sustainability in LEWaterpolo?

Sustainability is a strategic axis for LEWaterpolo. When we began to prepare the strategic plan, knowing the situation of the leagues and clubs, we realized that there was only one possible way forward.

We wanted to formalize this commitment to sustainability and therefore sought an official seal audited by an external company. We evaluated different options and decided on the proposal of the Spanish Olympic Committee and its seal audited by Bureau Veritas. During the first months we prepared with Planet Fair Play for the audit of both LEWaterpolo and the clubs.

Since September we are the first sustainable league in Spain and we are developing different social, environmental and economic sustainability projects with the clubs. It is a medium-term process that will evolve and in which we will ask more and more things from the clubs. The clubs have received our proposal very well and are working to meet the objectives that LEWaterpolo is setting.

Incorporating the axes of social and environmental sustainability in sport is crucial to make it an agent of positive change. In addition to enhancing image and reputation, the sport must leave a lasting legacy.

Challenges include upfront costs, resistance to change from many organizations, logistical complexities and potential conflicts with suppliers and sponsors. I believe that growing environmental awareness is driving the industry towards more responsible practices, generating long-term benefits for society and the environment. Sports organizations are realizing that there is only one way.

The sports industry generates, globally, between 1.5%-2% of the world's GDP and 3.3% of GDP in Spain, and it is evolving rapidly. As an expert in the sports sector, what do you think the sports sector will be like in 2030?

Digitalization will continue to be a key factor, transforming the way sports are practiced, consumed and managed. Emerging technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence will revolutionize the spectator experience and participation in sporting events. By 2030, it will likely be possible to watch games from home as if the spectator were in the stadium or on the field among the athletes.

The globalization of sport will intensify, with leagues and competitions expanding into new markets and attracting more diversified international audiences. The format of competitions and the rules of the game will have to be adapted to the target audience of each sport. Digital presence and online streaming platforms will play a crucial role in this process, allowing wider access to sporting events around the world.

Sustainability will become increasingly important in the sports industry. I believe that what are now best practices will become mandatory standards in the coming years. Sports organizations will actively contribute to social and environmental causes.

Technology integration and data analytics will continue to advance and provide increasingly reliable information for strategic decision making. Spectator engagement through digital platforms will consolidate, creating a more interconnected global community with well-identified needs.

In short, the sports industry in 2030 will be more digital, globalized and sustainable. It will focus on fan engagement providing new opportunities and challenges. Sports organizations must be ready to accompany fans in this change, know what their tastes are and offer them the products that best suit their needs.



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