“We say it in all countries: we want to be the second after local football.” Meet Javier Tebas, ladies and gentlemen. This is a man on a mission, with a vision to make La Liga not only the best football League in the world but also the most marketed. In an era where the Premier League rules the roost, Tebas is hardly sitting still.
Instead, he is busy signing deals, generating much-needed revenue to take La Liga’s global reach to the next level. The latest of them saw Indian tyre magnate become Official Global Partner to the Spanish top flight for the next three years. And Tebas made sure the world knew about it, putting on a show at Atletico Madrid’s home of Wanda Metropolitano to publicise his latest venture.
“Football’s a platform for a global brand like BKT to grow, and BKT helps La Liga grow in the field of agricultural tyres,” he said. “La Liga’s global exposure offers a great platform for brands to enter new territories and increase their audience. BKT shares our ambition to continue international growth and we hope to continue this work together for the next three seasons.”
With both brands in the business of growth, the deal is a win-win for all concerned. La Liga benefits from increased exposure in India – an emerging market, with potential access to over 1bn fans – whereas BKT now has the privilege of being associated with one of the biggest names in sport.
However, it also marks La Liga’s commitment to raising its profile in the English-speaking segment. The Press conference to announce BKT’s link with the division was expertly executed, having been held in equal parts Spanish and English. Bringing both worlds together was Guinean freestyler Iya Traore, who wowed the audience with a silent exhibition.
“Our first objective is to spread the brand, get the name out more to markets and households, make people more aware about us,” BKT managing director Rajiv Poddar exclusively told Football Espana. “At the same time, we want to get closer to the end user and create more contests, dialogue with them and build a rapport from those things.”
Poddar wasn’t wrong. His company sponsors the Monster Jam circuit, the American motorsport show where giant monster trucks fitted with BKT tyres perform astonishing stunts. BKT also prides itself on social and environmental responsibility, funding several initiatives in and out of India – so far out, it recently donated €5,000 to an Italian charity committed to helping preserve the Amazon rainforest.
BKT is the newest member in a long line of La Liga sponsors, which includes Santander, Puma, EA Sports, Budweiser, Rexona, El Corte Inglese, Samsung, Mazda, Allianz, Danone, Panini and fast-food delivery service Deliveroo. And only yesterday, it was announced soft-drink giant Pepsi had become the League’s official sponsor in Guatemala for the next three years.
While Tebas’ business acumen must be commended, that isn’t to say there haven’t been any missteps in his masterplan. Last year, the lawyer unsuccessfully lobbied for a Liga fixture between Barcelona and Girona to be played in Miami, fanning a war with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in the process.
There was also the failed experiment to promote Saudi football in Spain, with millions wasted on nine players and only a single, 10-minute cameo to show for it. And for all the progress made in bridging the gap, La Liga distributed half (€1.32bn) of what the Premier League did (€2.7bn) in 2017-18 TV money, with Real Madrid and Barcelona continuing to receive the lion’s share, albeit on a smaller scale.
Nonetheless, there is a reason why both the English top tier and Serie A wanted to poach the 57-year-old – because of his track record in making things happen. While plenty of work still needs to be done, La Liga is now safer, fairer, more professional and more prosperous than it has ever been. With a mission and a vision, the Primera is ready to take on the world.