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The Interview - Marc Gasol (President of Bàsquet Girona and NBA Champion)

It was a pleasure to be able to interview Marc Gasol, President of Bàsquet Girona and NBA Champion. In the interview, Marc Gasol explains concepts through his extensive points of view, having played in Europe, the United States and Canada. Beyond being an NBA Champion, Marc Gasol is also president of a club, and in the interview, he tells us all about his accomplishments; from the reason to create the club, to the process of building it, its currents projects, and future goals. SPSG Consulting is very proud to be able to assist Bàsquet Girona in developing the project.

You have been exposed to and actively involved in the sports industry from many different angles: player, owner, main executive, dealing with media and sponsors, etc. According to your understanding, which are the main trends of the Sports Industry moving forward?

Now the sports industry has so many angles and that is why many sports companies are professionalized and specialized on those angles. From an owner's point of view, I always try to think of the main target, who are we doing this for, and then try to act accordingly through all the different players on a basketball club, in this case. From the club perspective, how would the club interacts with the fans, what the club represents, what those players represent, and how they can connect with the fans. Anything from marketing you have fans in mind. Sustainability, in our case is huge, both economical and also on an environmental level; recycling, upcycling, etc. You can also educate your fans a little bit and make them feel part of the club so that they have that loyalty and that compromise going forward. In our mind, we always put what would the fans have in mind and how we will adapt accordingly.

You have been playing at an elite level both in Spain as well as in the NBA (USA and Canada: Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers), and became NBA Champion as well as Basketball World Champion as part of the Spanish team. What are the main differences you have identified when it comes to the sports industry (ownership, fan engagement, digital transformation, governance) between the two sides of the pond?

It is very different. Both sides have great points. In the case of the NBA, their system is a well-oiled machine, because they are working as a company. In Spain, you work more, sometimes, as a “public institution”, whereas in the NBA the main goal is to create revenue for the owners. In Spain that is not always the case. I know it is not very precise but in the big picture that is the main difference, those two ways. From that, you can understand how they work, operate and all the decisions that are made as a result.

You are the President and main shareholder of BÀSQUET GIRONA, a basketball club located in the beautiful city of Girona that you created from scratch a few years ago. Tell us about the reason behind the decision to create this club that now, their elite male team, plays in LEB Oro (second division of Basketball in Spain)

The main reason was that I saw an opportunity in a place that was very dear to me, a place that helped me a few years ago when I was a young adult coming out of Barcelona at 21-22 and I had to change teams and make a decision on where to play. Girona gave me that opportunity and it was a match right away, we had a connection. The team was very good, we had a lot of fun, the goals between the players and the club were very aligned, they were very vicious because we had a new sponsor but sadly the economical crisis really impacted the club. Unfortunately, the club disappeared after my second year in Girona and at that point, I went to the NBA and played there for many years.

In 2014, I saw the opportunity to create a new club from scratch. We also had the opportunity to pair with others clubs, but it was something so personal, and we wanted to create a new thing. Not new in the sense of different, something that has never been done before. in the sense that we are going to make our own mistakes, new mistakes, and we are going to learn from them because not everything is oversized. In the club, we had very good communication as far as the execution of the project. We started with 5 teams and now, 8 years later, we have 21 teams in the youth academy, 3 senior teams, a wheelchair team, we have 3x3 male and female (including the best players in Europe) and we will continue to grow widening our base and our youth program. As far as interacting with the community, it is about identifying the basketball club with the city. At the end of the day, you are servicing where you play, and having that bond between citizens and the club is essential. This is why we created it. We saw a gap, we saw an opportunity, we also had the emotional attachment to it and we created from the ground up, as far as first the youth academy and then moved on to the senior team a few years later

BÀSQUET GIRONA is working very hard in aligning the organization with the Environmental - Social - Governance framework as well as with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Why is so important for BÀSQUET GIRONA to be aligned with the sustainable framework and what specific activities are you, as a Club, putting in place or in-process to be implemented?

It is important to align the goals of the club with what is happening in the world. For people to identify themselves with the club they also have their own mindful things that they need to understand. We don’t live outside what is going on and we want to be an example.

As far as environmental sustainability, we eliminated plastic right away. It is not always easy to implement things when it's not your own arena and you are in public spaces (as our arena belongs to the municipality of Girona). We share our main arena with other teams. We are allowed to use it and we have a lot of freedom but any change we want to make has to go through the city of Girona approvement and its not always easy. One example of one thing we changed is water fountains. We placed public fountains so people can bring their own water bottles. We try to not sell single-use plastic at the arena. That is just one example related to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. We try to do small actions and at the end of the day inspire the youth. We have close to 300 kids in the youth academy so we can help them and give them the tools to become more aware human beings. That is a huge goal to have but I believe we can make that happen. In summary, sustainability is one of the main differentiating factors of the club and we are determined and committed to integrating these goals into our strategy.

The incremental generation of revenues for a Club is always a relevant and pivotal task. Besides the updated version of the BÀSQUET GIRONA Sponsorship Program that the Club is putting together, what are the other main activities and projects that you are implementing in order to increment the revenues for the Club?

We are a very young club and we are still in the process of growing. It is about finding the right partners and leadership. Having people like Carlos Cantó or Gerard Freixa, that are more senior people at their work, is key. They can assist you, lead you, in the direction that the sports world is going and we have a great team underneath them that is going to execute the vision. It is finding the right partners as far as who wants to make this bigger but also growing it accordingly to your vision. Vision can always be tweaked but you cannot bring a partner that is gonna have a completely different vision of what the long-term goal is. You have to bring partners aligned that add to your vision, maybe a bit different, but that do not change the main goal because then all the employees, all the club, all the things you have done in the past can lose sense.

Adding the right partners to your project is huge. I have been very fortunate to, for the most part, really hit a home run with the people that have been on board with us. We will see financially how we continue growing. We have done a good job growing our base, our community, through our attributes and making people understand what we continuously, not only by saying but also through actions, the importance of how many things beyond basketball a sports club can do and how it can impact positively in the community. The educational tool is something we truly believe in and we continuously work on relentlessly.

At the end of the day, it is a question of differentiating yourself, as a club, to add value to the community and the society, and to find the right partners. We are working very hard, as a club, in creating and developing new opportunities and assets for our partners, evolving our Partnership and Sponsorship Program, creating a new “Business Club” for companies that are basically located in our community, and we are strengthening our commitment with the sustainability (environmental, social, nutrition, healthy habits, etc.).

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