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LaLiga (Spain) to Launch Licensed Sports Bars to Support International Expansion

29 Sep 2020 - Spain’s top-flight football competition, LaLiga, will launch a new chain of licensed sports bars around the world to support its international expansion.

The league has spent the last 14 months developing the concept and brand guidelines for the new hospitality venues with a view to franchising them to specialist hospitality operators.

The ‘LaLiga Twentynine’s’ bars will take their name from the year the league was formed in 1929 and will combine gastronomy, entertainment and other sports “in a unique and interactive environment”.

Speaking at an event to launch the sport bar concept, Óscar Mayo, business, marketing and international development director at LaLiga, said the league plans to open 30 such venues over the next seven years.

The league has already signed an agreement with Barceló Hotel Group, a Spanish hotel chain with more than 252 hotels in 22 countries, granting it exclusive rights to LaLiga Twentynine’s licenses in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region and indicated the first venues would open in 2021. SportBusiness understands the league struck the deal through its global licensing department and did not work with an external licensing agency.

Mayo said the hospitality concept had been designed to be flexible but was conceived with airports, city centres, hotels and street level locations in mind.

Common elements
Common elements to the sports bars will include changing room tunnel-themed entrances, an interactive Beat Centre where fans can learn more about the history of the league and take part in interactive quizzes and a multi-purpose area designed to look like a stadium stand.

Some sites will also feature a dedicated esports area from LaLiga sponsor EA Sports and a gastronomic ‘B-eat Experience’ area with premium eating experiences and 360-degree projections.

LaLiga sponsor Santander will provide interactive quizzes in the Beat Center while league drinks sponsor Budweiser will feature in a branded bar area. The league indicated the brands had not paid any additional fees for the increased visibility and that this was being treated as an ‘added bonus’ for them at this stage.

Mayo said: “We wanted to do something like this really well. We didn’t want to say: ‘this is our brand guidebook, do what you want’.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time, so [this is] the added value we are giving to the people who want to have a Twentynine sports bar – the franchisees.

“The most important thing is that it works, and the customers enjoy the food and drink being offered there.”

Mena region Sara Ramis, chief marketing officer for the Barceló Hotel Group, said it had signed the exclusive licensing rights for the Mena region because it was of strategic importance to the company. She predicted that the first themed sports bars could open in Morocco or Dubai “very soon”.

She said: “From Barceló Hotel Group, we continue to bet on experiential innovation, creating unique and differentiated experiences in our hotels. LaLiga Twentynine’s is an innovative concept that unites us with a prestigious brand in LaLiga to develop this new concept of sports bar in which our clients will enjoy surprising experiences linked to sports.”

But Mayo added that the league also wants to open bars in North and Central America, in Russia and across Europe, emphasising that international projects are “more important than local projects”, to aid its expansion and promote its individual clubs.

“LaLiga is really working on getting closer to its fans and to increase the excitement during the 90-minute matches,” he said. “Beyond being just a weekend, we wanted them [the fans] to have other experiences and we wanted to have other points of contact with our fans during the week and other times – and also in a very different way.”

LaLiga has confirmed that a themed restaurant will feature at the PortAventura World theme park in Salou and Vila-seca, Tarragona, on the Costa Daurada in Catalonia, Spain.

The league recently announced a joint venture with the theme park operator comprising of three phases.

The first, composed of an investment of €10m ($11.7m/£9.1m), covers digital experiences, including the development of a new virtual game, and the creation of a themed restaurant within the resort that will be ready during the 2021-22 football season.

The second phase will include the design and development of a new LaLiga-themed attraction and an investment of €40m. In the final phase, there are plans to create a LaLiga theme park within the PortAventura World resort with a further investment of €100m.

In parallel, the joint venture will sign a licensing agreement with PortAventura World for the use of the LaLiga brand and app development. This licensing agreement will run for 15 years and give PortAventura World exclusive rights in Europe.