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  • Writer's pictureSPSG Consulting

The Interview - Iván Maroto, Business Manager at Club Deportivo Leganés

It has been an honor for SPSG Consulting to interview Iván Maroto, business director of Club Deportivo Leganés. After a fruitful and valuable professional career in UEFA, Mediapro, etc., Iván is responsible for the business development of CD Leganés, a club whose first team currently plays in the Hypermotion League and leads its ranking as of today. CD Leganés, with a loyal fan base, is part of the Blue Crow Sports group, which also owns Cancun FC (Mexico) and a club in UAE.

You have extensive experience in the sports industry, having worked for several years at UEFA, Hipódromo de la Zarzuela, Mediapro and now, for the last 4 months, managing business development at Club Deportivo Leganés. What have been the main characteristics of the evolution of sports in Spain in recent years?

Currently and from a purely technical perspective, I consider that the main feature to highlight in the last decade is the increase in the level of professionalization in all areas of the sports industry in our country. Currently, organizations in the sports industry are made up of professionals with very different profiles and experience who bring a more evolved business vision, putting into practice methodologies and strategies from other business sectors, achieving greater efficiency in the performance of all areas of the organization and general business orientation.

On the other hand, technology has come to play a decisive role in many aspects:

-From the management point of view, strategic decisions are usually supported by a deep data analysis. On the other hand, the fan experience has changed radically through social networks, gamification and other technological elements that make the experience develop in a multilayered and multilevel way at the same time, here we can also talk about how it has changed the physical experience of the fan during the event from access control to the stadium itself through biometric technology to Fan ID, multi-event tracking through smart devices or consumption behavior derived from cashless.

-To conclude with the evolution of sport in this decade from a social point of view, I believe that the most important characteristic is that sport now transcends all aspects of society and reflects the fundamental values of a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable culture.

CD Leganés is part of the Blue Crow Sports Group (BCSG), based in Houston (Texas, USA), which also includes other sports properties, such as the Cancún FC soccer club, as well as an alliance with Rainbow Sports Global, an African investment holding company. What are the main elements of Blue Crow Sports Group's growth strategy and to what extent does it influence or have an impact on CD Leganés' strategy and operations?

C.D. Leganés is the jewel in Blue Crow's crown and, as such, the main property on which the group's strategic plan pivots. In addition to CDL, Blue Crow Sports Group owns Cancun FC (in Mexico), MFK Vyskov (in the Czech Republic, but very close to Vienna) and Dubai Elite Falcons (UAE). All clubs are located in places with great commercial and tourism potential, which is no coincidence, as sports tourism is one of the group's growth pillars. With Club Deportivo Leganés, for example, we seek to get closer to Madrid, and from there to the rest of Spain and the world. Both at B2B and B2C level, the potential of the club (located just 15 minutes from Atocha station) to attract groups that want to watch matches in our stadium or train in our sports city is huge. And this is very similar for the rest of our clubs, which is very good because it allows us to generate synergies (for example, transversal agreements with travel agencies specialized in this type of activities).

In addition to sports tourism, at a commercial level, the other two strategic growth axes are everything related to entertainment both on and off match day (many of our investors come from American sportainment) and internationalization, with a special focus on Africa, as we believe that the future of soccer lies in this continent. All of this is supported by technology and innovation, which is what really allows you to do things differently. Examples of this is the innovative campaign that we launched from C.D. Leganés associated with the sale of gamified NFT plots in our stadium, which give access to prizes for the fan as situations arise in the matches; the LaLiga mascots event that we held on November 19; and others that will come very soon.

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 the value proposition of CD Leganés for sponsoring brands?

We like to say that at C.D. Leganés we have partners and not sponsors, since sponsorship is simply the vehicle that partners and club share as companions on a journey whose main objective is to grow together along the way and build a long-term relationship that shares vision and purpose so that the return is transversal to all business verticals in both organizations. On the other hand, activation is crucial: sponsorship must be something that is alive and constantly evolving, and for this it is essential to work hand in hand with the partner so that the activations generate a brand perception that clearly and accurately conveys the desired values. The same sponsorship with two different activations can launch diametrically opposed messages, there must be a joint strategy and set specific and common objectives.

Having said that, I would highlight three fundamental axes: Business, Brand and Engagement.

Business: the most common or natural question when sitting down with a partner is usually: What can you offer us? We ask the opposite question: What can we offer you? Our main objective and the ultimate goal of a sponsorship is that the partner generates business; when the partner increases in business through ownership you will never have to worry about renewals... you will have a partner ad eternum.

Brand: activation exponentially increases the value of the brand. Going back to what was mentioned before, it is key to share values and purpose with the partner, a common goal that acts as a common thread. From this point on, a very exhaustive study must be carried out to design the activations that will connect us with our target audience through the different channels. Let's say that sponsorship is a necklace where the brand is the pearls and the activation is the thread.

Engagement: This is where the most powerful tool that exists comes into action and of which we at C.D. Leganés make flag: creativity. We try that through its brand, the sponsor can offer unique and exclusive experiences that generate a high sense of belonging and with a high emotional component. Emotional memory is simply infinite, our memories are marked by emotions and all the elements of an experience are linked to it, including (or especially) 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. And this paradigm is far from being akin, far from it, to soccer, nor to the entity that leads professional soccer in Spain (and one of the main stakeholders worldwide, LaLiga). From your expert point of view, what is the importance of incorporating the axes of social and environmental sustainability in sport -especially football- and what are the main challenges? And what is the importance of sustainability in C.D. Leganés?

Sustainability in all its axes is a core part of C.D. Leganés.

In general terms, and not only in the sports industry, sustainability has ceased to be a competitive virtue and has become an obligation. It is not a question of "and it is also sustainable", it is a question of "of course it is sustainable".

We work permanently so that all projects, without exception, that are carried out at C.D. Leganés are sustainable in all areas. The club's values and purpose are fully aligned with both CSR and the SDGs, and we can also boast that all our partners are also fully aligned in this aspect, generating a fundamental intangible value such as the high reputational return by associating all these values within the brand attributes of C.D. Leganés and, therefore, of our partners.

To give a specific example, this season our third kit pays tribute to people suffering from rare diseases and has been designed with the colors that represent them, and 10% of the profits from the sale of these shirts goes to FEDER.

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, and with a focus on soccer, what do you think the soccer industry will be like in 2030?

On the one hand, I believe that it is an industry that enjoys great health and will continue to evolve positively in the coming years, increasing its role and weight substantially with respect to global GDP and also in Spain. Moreover, in the particular case of Spain, the curve will be especially steep from the second half of the decade thanks to the traction that the 2030 World Cup will generate, a unique opportunity both for the soccer industry in particular and for the sports industry in general and all related sectors.

That said, there are also very exciting challenges in different areas (fan engagement, generational challenge, technology, security, 360 degree sport, etc.) that force us all to work hard to create innovative solutions that allow all stakeholders to continue building a solid, growing and attractive industry on a daily basis. One thing is clear, (well two): no one player is as good as all of them together, and, above all: the fan at the center of it all... Fan Centricity.

Finally, from C.D. Leganés and Blue Crow Sports we have the firm conviction to continue working so that soccer continues to grow in Spain from the base and with a high level of professionalization with the clear objective of being a very relevant club both nationally and internationally and continue contributing to the growth of the industry in all aspects always through effort, creativity and innovation.



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