LaLiga’s Joint Venture With Relevent Is Expanding to Mexico

·4 min read

LaLiga North America, the 50-50 joint venture between Spain’s top soccer league and Relevent Sports Group, is expanding its relationship to include Mexico.

LaLiga clubs have voted to extend the scope of the group, which spent the last three years growing the league’s commercial footprint in the U.S. and Canada. That include media rights—the joint venture negotiated LaLiga’s new $1.4 billion deal with ESPN, the richest U.S. TV deal for a European league ever.

The plan will be similar in Mexico. LaLiga’s media deal with Televisa’s SKY Sports expires in a few years, so that will be top priority, but the group will also focus on studio shows, corporate partnerships, grassroots efforts, and possibly hosting a LaLiga regular season match in Mexico—all things it believes will make those live rights more valuable.

“In Mexico, soccer is the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 sport,” LaLiga North America CEO Boris Gartner said in an interview. “So the opportunity is a little different than in the U.S. We don’t have to build that momentum for soccer. We just need to make sure we are getting the league and clubs closer to the fans.”

Top European clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, and the leagues they play in, have hit a saturation point in their home markets, creating a desire to grow fan bases and revenue in new places. The U.S., with its 331 million people and robust media infrastructure, is LaLiga’s most important market outside of Spain, and the league believes Mexico could develop into another critical region.

Not only is soccer the most popular sport in Mexico, but Spanish is also its native language. Adding Mexico will also give LaLiga North America a presence in all three countries co-hosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, generating synergies that will help the joint venture work across the region.

“It allows you to have much larger conversations with brand partners and media partners in terms of how they can promote the league, the players and the clubs directly,” said Daniel Sillman, CEO of Relevent Sports Group and a LaLiga North America board member. “A brand may have interest now in promoting across all the key territories, instead of just being hyper focused in one, and we’ll benefit from the tailwinds of the World Cup as well.”

LaLiga North America was formed in 2018 in partnership with Relevent, a soccer media and event organizer backed by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Relevent, which has positioned itself as a conduit for the sport in North America and Asia, also runs the International Champions Cup, an annual summer tournament featuring soccer’s biggest club teams.

The joint venture has helped LaLiga behave in North America more like a media company than a league. And if live game rights are the measuring stick, the first three years in the U.S. and Canada have been a success. The $1.4 billion deal with ESPN, announced last month, is both a big revenue increase and a transition away from a partnership with beIN Sports that many believed was holding the league back.

Revenue from corporate partnerships has also grown, including U.S. deals with Verizon, PointsBet and Herbalife. Sponsorship money was $0 in the group’s first year, $2 million in its second and $4 million in its third. The joint venture has already booked $7 million for the upcoming season, Gartner said.

In some ways, LaLiga North America is already well-positioned for expansion into Mexico. The group started the 2020-21 season with 14 weekly shows, a combination of English- and Spanish-language programming specifically for fans in the region. Much of that content comes from the group’s studios in Guadalajara, and the joint venture has a handful of executives (including Gartner, a former Televisa exec) with prior professional experience in Mexico.

“We have a team that’s been built, the investment is there, and our content team is already based in Guadalajara,” Gartner said. “This isn’t something we need to stand up again from scratch, so any revenue that we generate will be incremental for the joint venture.”

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