LaLiga is all set to dig deeper into the Indian market to connect the fans of the international sport; we take a look at the role of social media in the game.
LaLiga ‘s journey from 300,000 Facebook followers in India to about 4 million now has taken years and multiple strategies. Content had to be created in English and eventually in Hindi and Bengali. This reeled in people with the help of inclusivity. You can’t like what you can’t consume.
As more and more people in India showed interest to join conversations around the Spanish version of this international sport, the content was shifted to be more country-specific. The hyperlocal approach helped, supplemented by the option to display targetted content customised for geography and interest.
“In the whole subcontinent, the level of digital following that we have makes it a relevant market for us to produce digital content,” says Jose Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director, LaLiga India. About the user behaviour here, he says it isn’t any different than any other geography when it comes to football. Bigger clubs have bigger audiences.
What makes LaLiga’s growth in India significant is how the league has leveraged social media to increase visibility, especially via Facebook.
The league has a presence on all major social media platforms. Recently, it even joined TikTok. Apart from Twitter where there are pages for different languages, almost all platforms have global pages only.
Social Media Footprint
Twitter: 591K (LaLiga English)
The official LaLiga Facebook page uses audience optimised posts to reach people with content that is customised according to geography. In 2018, a three-season deal was made to allow Facebook to bring LaLiga to eight countries on the Indian subcontinent: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, exclusively.
“It was a landmark agreement that changed the way we approach our fans. We moved from a traditional channel to a more direct approach via social media. It makes LaLiga matches more accessible to fans and there has been a growth in numbers,” Cachaza tells us.
In India, most of their viewership comes from metro cities like West Bengal, NCR, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
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Between 2014 and 2018, the broadcast rights for LaLiga were with Sony Pictures Network. After the Facebook deal was inked, the platform had sublicensed SPN to broadcast select matches, about out of the 380 scheduled for the season. It was a tricky affair because the matches were still to be live-streamed on Facebook Watch.
Is digital better than broadcast, we asked. Cachaza explained how it’s about deciding the main source of revenue for the sporting body. “We need to balance everything before taking that decision and it depends on what a broadcaster offers us. We are always open to a score of opportunities. We are happy with the venture with Facebook and intend to grow with them.”
Currently, LaLiga has 10 people working full time to monitor engagement and reactions as well as creating content specific to the region.
“What’s surprising is how just outside India, we have significant followers counting Bangladesh and Nepal. In India, we have about 4 million followers on Facebook and in Bangladesh, it’s about 3.5 million, despite lesser comparative population,” said Cachaza.
With such reach, brand associations are a natural progression. Cachaza mentions BKT Tyres and Dream11, in the case of the former, efforts are being made to reach an international market with a global agreement, in the case of latter, the focus is on the Indian market with a hyperlocal approach.
“We intend to help brands get more than just presence on sponsor boards,” says Cachaza, explaining how brands can explore outdoor activations and events with LaLiga. As a means to increase the relevance of the property in India, Rohit Sharma was onboarded as a brand ambassador last December.
“90% of the sports audiences in India watch cricket. The greatness of the game that cannot be ignored. Getting Sharma onboard helps establish how cricketers too love football. That no matter how much you love cricket, you can like football too,” Cachaza explained how such associations can act as a bridge for potential football fans to start watching LaLiga.
The rise of domestic leagues like ISL too help create an environment that facilitates the growth of football in the country. Just like ISL and PKL, LaLiga has also created associations with schools to give children a taste of the game, facilitating them to understand the international format and learn the sport better. It also helps LaLiga deepen its roots in the country.