Exclusive: We need to get closer to cricket in India, but we cannot compete with it – Jose Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director, LALIGA India

In a tete-a-tete with SportsMint Media, Mr Jose Antonio Cachaza spoke about the partnership with Rohit Sharma, how LALIGA aims to be the second best league in every country and much more.

The new season of the Spanish professional football competition, LALIGA has begun and we have seen a comprehensive makeover that involves brand creation, strategy, positioning technology, audio-visual, and digital advancements.

Moreover, the strategic partnership with EA Sports comes with an enhanced fan experience while strongly adhering to grassroots football and bringing the real and virtual worlds together.

In India, LALIGA, which airs on Sports18 can also be enjoyed live on the OTT platform, JioCinema.

LALIGA 2023-24 has seen the return of the world’s best footballers along with many talented young players who will act as an appropriate showcase for Europe’s most competitive major league. With several competitors hoping to win the championship and earn highly sought-after berths in European football at the end of the season, the battle will be at its most fruitful.

The event in Mumbai, which promoted the new LALIGA EA SPORTS season, witnessed the presence of Mr Jose Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director of LALIGA India, Siddharth Sharma, Head of Content of Viacom18 Sports and the captain of the men’s Indian cricket team and LALIGA’s brand ambassador in India, Rohit Sharma.

In a tete-a-tete with SportsMint Media, Mr Jose spoke about the partnership with Rohit Sharma, how LALIGA aims to be the second-best league in every country and much more.

1. How has been your overall experience in India, working, and growing the brand LALIGA?

The journey, so far, has been a roller coaster. I mean, just think that we have no operation here, I came here to try to develop this project, to promote football in a cricket land. We were in the middle of a pandemic, so that was like a roller coaster. We also work with very good partners, such as the sports management company, India On Track and MSL in PR. Then broadcasters like Sony came first, then Facebook, and now Viacom18. So all the partners, along with LALIGA, made the journey a little easier, but as I said, it was quite like a roller coaster.

2. How did you initially build your relationship with India On Track, MSL and Viacom18? What was the initial process?

Oh well, there’s no secret about that. You have a need, you make a tender, you look at proposals, you find a partner, and you stick to it or not. In our case, we stick to our partners.

3. How has the partnership with Rohit Sharma worked for LALIGA in the last five years?

It is a joy to work with him, and especially it brings us closer to that big India for whom the only sport is cricket. And that’s the implicit message, ‘If your hero loves football, you can love football as well and if he loves LALIGA then even you should love LALIGA.’

4. How do you go neck-to-neck with something like the Premier League, cricket competitions, or even the Indian Super League (ISL)?

Well, with cricket, you cannot compete, Period! it’s already out of reach. We need to get closer to them, but we cannot compete. And we do not wish to compete with the ISL, too. Our logic is that we want to be the number two league in every country as we are the number one league, locally. So with ISL, the only thing that we can do is support them in whatever way we can. It is good for everybody that football is growing in India and for football to grow in India, it is critical that ISL keeps growing. To compete with the English Premier League, we try to do things differently than them. We try to bring a fresher image, we invest more in digital connection with fans and that’s about it, keeping a good relationship with them as well, helps.

5. With a new logo and new branding, how are you approaching the new season on the business front?

We just try to understand how we can keep delivering to our partners so they can be with us for the longer run. Along with this, to also understand the market how it evolves and what kind of corporations could we approach to bring them on board. Now, it’s just the basics we will keep doing that and there’s no secret, it’s mainly understanding what to expect and what assets, we can deliver to our partners.

6. In terms of onboarding local Indian corporations as commercial partners, what is the initial thought process? What is the planning behind the scenes?

First, we try to identify what corporations could be interested in supporting or sponsoring or associating with a European league and why? and for what? and then establish connections with them over a cup of ‘Chai’.

7. In India, sports are also about star following, and now that the LALIGA is in transition and many young footballers are coming up, how does the league view those developments?

Of course, the stars are important. But let’s not forget that this is a club competition, and I think that even if you look at India, the hero-worshipping is absolutely true, look at cricket or look at Bollywood. You love to worship stars, but in football, following the club is more relevant than you probably think. If you look at market research, it’s a constant that the three most followed clubs in India are Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Manchester United. And Manchester United has been underperforming for the last 10 years but they are still on the top. So they are basically living on the legend they created 10 years ago, from the Alex Ferguson days. So, we need to look into these details, too.

I mean this is not tennis, this is not Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, so the club matters. For example, look at places like Kerala or Bengal or across the country in Bangladesh, the crazy following they have for Argentina and Brazil, and it has started from the days of Pele or the days of Maradona, of course, Messi helps but they still have a following for the old footballers. The only different thing is that they follow a national team because it was probably what they could watch on television back then. Today, the younger fans are watching LALIGA, they’re watching EPL and even the Champions League. I was surprised when I came to India and got to know, how many people were watching Champions League matches at 1:30 AM!

8. To what extent does a popular footballer help a club or a competition acquire new brands as a sponsor?

It does help a lot because, in the end, the brands look for eyeballs. So everything adds up, in terms of the image, as well. I can give you one example, Why Amul sponsored Portugal and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup 2022? Because it was an Indian association for Messi and Ronaldo.

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