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The Interview - Ignacio Jiménez Soler (Head of Communications Iberia at Enel Group)

Ignacio Jiménez Soler es el Head of Communication Iberia at Enel Group en Iberia y Director General de Comunicación de Endesa, empresa que focaliza sus esfuerzos en patrocinio básicamente en el territorio de patrocinio de baloncesto, así como la música. SPSG Consulting ha asesorado durante varios años a Endesa en su estrategia de patrocinio, y Carlos Cantó también al Grupo Enel a nivel de homogeneización de las metodologías y herramientas de patrocinio aplicables a los distintos países y unidades de negocio.

Endesa is very involved in the basketball scene as a sponsor and very significant partner with leading entities like the Spanish Basketball Federation, the ACB-Liga Nacional de Baloncesto, and previously the NBA and EuroLeague Basketball, as well as the wheelchair basketball competition. What are the main reasons behind the decision to go into partnership with basketball?

Our entry into basketball coincided with a time when the company was looking to reposition itself as a brand. We were looking for a 360º repositioning, with a significant sponsorship to accompany it. Basketball seemed to us like an ideal ally. It is a family-friendly, clean, respectful sport where groups of opposing fans are twinned. It is a sport that is not only followed on television and through the media, but played from the time people were at school. We found it to be the most complete and that it best represented the values with which we wished to be associated.

Furthermore, recent years have been a golden age for this sport, with great points of reference, as well as results, both with regard to men's and women's basketball.

The balance over these ten years has been very positive, which is why we still continue to sponsor this sport. Basketball has given us so much and there has been a clear development over time.

Activating a sponsorship deal is a key factor in getting the most out of the partnership. Endesa is a well-known company and brand in Spain and other countries. What are the main activities undertaken by Endesa to activate its sponsorship agreements?

This is where you will see the development that I previously mentioned.

At first we were looking above all for renown and to get that association and acceptance of the brand in an area such as basketball. This renown was largely achieved by the naming of the Endesa League, by all the supports associated with the agreement and by association with the values of basketball. Later we began to incorporate the generation of content, being able to provide experiences that money can't buy for our fans, and currently we aim to provide what we call sponsorship with purpose, that is, to be able to present our solidarity and CSR actions to society through the sponsorship of basketball. A line that you know well and that seeks to leave a legacy within the territory, and will enable us to say with pride in a few years' time that Endesa really also contributed to basketball.

By having a strong presence in everything we do. Sponsorship is a very good tool to be able to approach all the main players that surround the Endesa ecosystem in a natural and friendly way.

We work with all the groups you mentioned, but I would like to highlight the link with our customers and employees. We could not envisage the activation of experiences and the use of tickets without them, they are the target for 90% of our activity in this regard.

"Sponsorship with a purpose" is gaining importance in the sponsorship activation strategy for a significant number of brands. Both social and environmental elements are a key factor today for any company. How does Endesa meet these challenges and contribute to a more sustainable world by activating sponsorship agreements?

Thank you for asking this question, as you well know these are two essential elements in the world of sponsorship nowadays. We have been learning and working along these two lines in recent years.

I would like to start with sponsorship with a purpose. In this process of growth and development, our association with the ACB and FEB has enabled us to acquire social commitments for the future with projects that put basketball at the centre of social transformation. Basketball has given us so much over the years, and we are firmly committed to giving back what we have received through basketball.

With this in mind we have two major projects.

Basket Lover Stories, which was started in the 20-21 season by the ACB. This is an initiative which involved us asking people to send us their social projects, of any kind, where basketball was the tool or the vehicle to achieve that social purpose.

Five projects were finally selected with which we have reached points throughout the country and with which we will continue working, seeking to give a tour of the potential of the stories that range from sustainability to the care of the most needy through the innovation of the circular economy.... Basketball plays a leading role in actions with a very deep social background in each community.

And in this project it was not us who selected the projects, but we listened to the participants' individual real needs and as a result drew up lines of action to focus on providing each one with what they needed most. From the point of view of visibility, funds, communication actions etc.

Not forgetting the community spirit, a feeling of belonging, which last year arose very naturally. It is wonderful to see how thanks to this project they themselves contacted each other to collaborate with each other. This is something of which we are very proud and in which we would like to accompany them.

Meanwhile, with the FEB we have Basket Girlz. A project that arose with the aim of stopping young adolescents from abandoning sport. It has been shown that girls are more prone to abandoning sport than boys in secondary school. We wanted to conduct a study to determine the causes, then show inspiring stories of women who were helped by basketball in their lives and in their development. But we do not want this to remain just as theory. What we would like to do is to establish specific actions and plans which we will activate throughout the year, and these will be focussed on those areas where we have detected that the roots of the problem may lie, such as a lack of references and visibility as well as the family environment. This will lead us to the creation of a guide to "good habits and behaviour" for parents and coaches, to assess in fair measure what basketball means to people of these ages, and to be able to take advantage of all the positive values that they provide.

A series of actions will also be undertaken to give more visibility to the players of the LFEndesa, which is now in excellent health and has enormous potential.

We have all had a young sports idol, and these are the ones that really get you hooked on a sport. These references need to be brought to light to serve as an inspiration to young women.

In addition to these two initiatives that lead our action in the area of social commitments within the world of basketball, what we call sponsorship with a purpose goes further and enables us to also apply our outlook and brand strategy in matters of sustainability. This summer we collected plastic materials during the Women's European Championship in Valencia and turned them into recycled notebooks. We have offset CO2 emissions from the last major events in which we have been present by recycling plastics left by fans, as well as promoting travel in electric vehicles.

It is one of our company's strategic lines and increasingly demanded by society and by the fans who travel to these events, so we will continue working to make basketball and the events that surround it more and more sustainable.

I am able to tell you that the preliminary phase of the Endesa Minicup, which will take place in Valencia from 6 to 9 December, will be played using nets that have been recycled from fishing nets, which was one of the projects presented for Basket Lover Stories. These synergies and partnerships are a key element in our sustainable sponsorship with a purpose.

Finally, and taking advantage of your extensive knowledge of marketing, communication and sponsorship, what are the main challenges and opportunities facing the sports industry, especially from the sponsorship and communication perspective?

That's a good question, and very important at this time. We believe that there is one challenge that is above all the others. And it is not focussed on basketball itself, because we are sure that this sport has many followers and is played by so many people. It is more concerned with how to spread the message and reach people of all ages, but especially young people.

People have changed the way they consume with regard to formats and supports and we also have more competitors than before. We do not have to be more attractive or different than other sports, we have to try to be more attractive compared to all the consumer and entertainment platforms that are gaining an increasing share in this regard. That's why we have to work on new channels, new content and new ways of packaging it.

At the opposite end of the scale from the first point, we have what we might call sensations, which is the most natural and differential aspect of this sport.

We have to work on making these references more accessible to younger people. Children need to interact with them and understand that they are really just like them, normal people.

We all had sports idols as children, and they are what inspired us to play that sport and want to become athletes. We need to recover and enhance those feelings and those sensations. We would like to be able to convey how important athletes are for young people, the commitment and responsibility they have with them. What they need to do is to relate to young people and allow them to dream of one day being like them. And that is not achieved by just watching them on a screen.

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