KUALA LUMPUR – Barcelona’s decision to focus on the Asian market is beginning to bear fruit as sales in the continent generates 40 percent of the business income, ticket sales and TV rights aside, Jordi Camps, the head of Barça’s six-year-old office in Hong Kong, told EFE.
“Apart from the income generated at the stadium and the TV (broadcast rights), 40 percent of our commercial revenue comes from Asia, which indicates that it is a very big market, but there is a lot to take advantage of,” said Camps, who took part in World Football Summit Asia in Kuala Lumpur.
These revenues are generated by 16 sponsors in the region, 12 of which are regional sponsors and the others are global ones, including Rakuten, a Japanese electronic commerce, which is responsible of 20 percent of the commercial income as it agreed on a deal worth 55 million euros ($61.31 million) per season to put its logo on the first-team kit.
Barcelona turned their attention to Asia six years ago, thanks to Xavier Asensi, the current commercial director of the Spanish La Liga club.
“We started by focusing on the commercial aspect, where we tried to capitalize on the interest of possible partners and sponsors and we grew a lot,” Camps explained.
From there, it has expanded to the extent of being considered “a mini Barça in the region,” with marketing, management and sporting academies.
Camps recommended that all the clubs with an interest in developing their brand in the continent to have a presence on the ground in order to keep up with how to best target customers.
He said the Asian market differs from the European one, which he considers “very mature” and from the United States, which is “far more competitive.”
“In Asia, seeing as soccer isn’t so developed at a local level, they see look to Europe as a reference, both Premier League teams and those of Spain,” he said.
Subsequently, what the Asian brands ask for as they knock on Barcelona’s door is “totally different” from the European ones seek out.
“In Europe, what we are looking for is to connect with the fans and the return on investment, everything is more focused on the business, in Asia it is much more focused on brand recognition and using Barça and their experiences in their marketing campaigns,” he added.
For Camps, Spanish teams are closing the gap with the Premier League sides, who have been dominating the Asiatic market due to the historical links with a variety of countries and the work they have been doing over the years to market their matches’ broadcasting rights.
“The Premier League started a long time ago with the issue of the television, which we with La Liga only started relatively recently, but the distance has reduced a lot. As for big clubs, we’re almost on par,” he added.
The Catalan club has 15 academies in China, Japan, Australia, Singapore and India – and soon there will be one in South East Asia – and employs 17 coaches in Asia.
“We bring the method of Barça, of La Masia, to Asia with our coaches. To have 4,500 children in Asia training on the Barça style makes us proud. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are recognized by soccer and we have to take care of that, “he explained.
Camps nonetheless thought the chances of an Asian player making Barcelona’s first team were still low, given that the continent lacks strong leagues and national soccer federations.
Barcelona’s cross-town rivals Espanyol, however, made the Chinese fans very excited by signing Wu Lei.
“They have done it and things are going very well with them both at the sporting level and in China. Also, it went well for Eibar in Japan with (Takashi) Inui,” he continued.
Camps considered that playing competitive local matches outside Spain will be “very good” for the business, but there is a need to find balance with the sporting aspects.
“We have to look after our local fans, those who go to the stadium and really support us from the beginning, we have to take care of the competition, not adulterate it,” he added.