La Liga, Spain’s top-flight football league, is quietly making inroads across Asia, where its ambition is to become fans’ league of choice after their own domestic league.

“When we started there was a clear understanding that it’s an English Premier League-dominated market,” Russell Tan, La Liga’s head of marketing for Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Australia, acknowledged when speaking to The Drum.

“But there’s been a shift towards us,” he maintained. “EPL is very club-led and does a lot of commercial partnerships individually, but La Liga is about bringing [clubs] together,” he explained.

“One of the key things is the AV rights. In the very end of last season, domestic broadcast rights increased by 30%. So that shows that what we’ve been doing in the last year has been working.”

Not only are the numbers of broadcast viewers up, but there’s been “a huge increase” in the number of fans following on social media, Tan claimed; and stadium visits are also up as more people travel from Asia to Spain to see matches.

A “softly-softly” approach is geared towards the long term and includes an openness to experimenting with different strategies without the pressures of short-term returns.

“We do many interesting things that aren’t necessarily about football,” said Tan. In Singapore, these have included partnering with a Formula 1 team to attract racing fans and sponsoring a consumer electronics fair – on the grounds that tech fans are more likely to be football fans so it could promote the OTT platform of Beln Sports, its key regional broadcaster.

And as the fans and viewer numbers grow – one game in China was watched by 24 million people – brands are becoming increasingly interested in what La Liga has to offer.

“Brands are coming to us because they want to reach a wider audience,” he said. “They don’t just want to partner with one club, they want the reach that we can give.”

Sourced from The Drum; additional content by WARC staff