NewsUSASoccer wins over Spanish companies in the US

Soccer wins over Spanish companies in the US

Sport is Spain’s main calling card in the United States. Despite the multi-million dollar investments of Spanish companies in the country and the important activity of groups such as Santander, Iberdrola, ACS, Ferrovial or Inditex, in the United States there is much more talk about Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Rafa Nadal, Pau Gasol or John Rahm. Sport contributes to Americans having a generally positive image of Spain, according to a study promoted by ICEX and the Leading Brands Forum and carried out by LLYC, which has measured the conversation on social networks about Spain between 2017 and 2022. 61 million messages in English and 22 million messages in Spanish have been analyzed.

One of the recommendations of the study is to capitalize on the positive values ​​associated with Spanish art, gastronomy and sport to incorporate them as attributes of the Spain brand. An opportunity is identified to incorporate the values ​​that define these sectors (competitiveness, effort, creativity and quality) so that they are represented in the minds of North American citizens.

The conversation about Spain in these last five years has revolved not only around sport, but also politics (with a peak due to the Catalan independence process in 2017) and about the covid (partly because its historical precedent, the 1918 pandemic , it was the so-called Spanish flu). But while the evaluation of Spain in general is positive by 41 points (a level of confidence that is measured by the difference between promoting or positive and detracting or negative messages), when analyzing the activity sectors, sport stands out (64.6 points), hotels (55.2), drinks (42.2), fashion (37.0) and food (32.4).

The power of Real Madrid

Previous studies showed that the companies most spontaneously associated with Spain in the United States are Zara, Banco Santander, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, ​​BBVA, Meliá, Telefónica, Banco Sabadell and Caixabank. In this, more focused on social networks, football dominates the conversation with the Real Madrid brand standing out as the one that attracts the most messages and the one that is most associated with Spain, followed by LaLiga and FC Barcelona.

“The report gives us a different, original vision because it analyzes the perception of public opinion, but not through a classic quantitative survey model, but through the conversations that are taking place on social networks,” explains Pablo López Gil, general director of the Leading Brands Forum. “There is a very evident weight of the soft attributes, linked to leisure and entertainment, culture, quality of life, sports and a lesser weight of those harder attributes associated with technology, innovation, and other more typical elements of the economic and business dimension of a country”, he points out. Outside of sport, the chef José Andrés, the Camino de Santiago and the businessman Amancio Ortega are among the references most associated with Spain.

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In the opinion of López Gil, “those positive associations, even if they are with soft attributes, are elements on which it is possible to build and that generate a positive impact in economic terms.” “To give two examples, they help you attract tourism and attract talent. And in what would be the ability to sell products and services already benefit certain sectors, for example, linked to tourism and gastronomy ”, he adds.

“I am not surprised that the most recognized Spanish brand is Real Madrid”, says Javier Serra Guevara, general director of Institutional Cooperation and coordination of Icex. It must be borne in mind that what has been done is a task of listening to the general public on social networks. Some infrastructure or energy companies are not familiar brands to the final consumer, but they are among those who matter, who are not the subject of this study, who are American professionals dedicated specifically to those sectors. That being said, let’s take advantage of that positive image of our sport and our athletes to seek alliances with Spanish companies and take advantage of those strengths”, he argues. Along the same lines, López Gil admits that “there is a lack of knowledge in public opinion about part of the economic and business reality of Spain because it belongs to infrastructure, banking and engineering companies that are not reached or known by the general public. These companies can benefit from the positive associations that exist about Spain”.

José Ramón Pastor, commercial and marketing director of Vidal Golosinas, is one of those who believes that the image of José Andrés is being positive for Spanish food companies. Vidal has had an export vocation for decades, he captured his first client in the United States at a fair, he got to know the country, adapting the items to the tastes and needs of the market and now he has his own company and team in the country and sells his products in almost every state, he explains. They have adapted graphics, packaging and branding and are optimistic. “The acceptance is positive and I think there is a general positive trend towards Spanish products. The famous cook (referring to José Andrés) is helping us indirectly, but also sports make us more and more known”, he says. “And when they work with us, they see us as competitive, serious companies, with a differential product,” he adds.

image of reliability

Pedro Schoch, director of Development, Marketing and Communication of the GMV group, agrees that beyond sports or cultural companies, large Spanish companies such as Santander, Telefónica, BBVA or Inditex give Spanish companies a positive image as serious and reliable, with whom you can do business. He regrets that the image of Spain is not perceived as that of a technologically leading country like Germany or Switzerland, but he believes that some groups like his are helping to build that image in some sectors. GMV entered into a contract in the United States in the space area at the end of the 1990s, then won another major contract in 2002 for the development of a satellite control center and launched its own subsidiary in Rockville, in the area metropolitan Washington “We realized that contact and close presence made things easier. We had already won projects, but for large contractors, such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin, and for the institutional market, it is better to be there”, he explains.

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This space subsidiary has not only acquired an important dimension, but has also been the gateway to other group businesses such as cybersecurity, transport or information technology. In 2015, GMV redoubled its commitment to transport, especially in location systems and management of public bus fleets, in this case buying a couple of companies to have “a more consolidated starting point and with a commercial footprint in the United States ”, that provide synergies and to which they can contribute their own technology. “Having a good concept of Spanish companies helps us and matters to us. And we, from our position, are also building that. We are not as media-focused as other large companies, but we do leave our mark in the sectors in which we work, especially in space, where we have the most powerful image”, he assures.

López Gil indicates that “in terms of image and economic diplomacy, the idea of ​​concentrating efforts in states that you consider key and where there is a more receptive base seems logical and the study shows that this base already exists in those states.” He also recommends joining forces between public and private agents to take advantage of synergies.

The report indicates that Spanish sectors such as fashion, food and banking have a good image in the United States, indicates Serra Guevara, who does not like it, on the other hand, “that perhaps there is too much talk about quality-price”. The quality-price attribute is the most prominent, especially for the hotel and gastronomy sector, due to the fame of chefs, restaurants and raw materials, as well as the good evaluation that users make of Spanish hotels. “We would rather see quality valued in absolute terms,” ​​says Serra Guevara. For his part, López Gil laments that “apart from football, there are not many Spanish brands with a relevant degree of knowledge.” “There we have a certain pending issue,” he adds.

The success of LaLiga

The United States has become the second market for audiovisual rights for LaLiga, only behind Spain, and the best example of success in the internationalization strategy of Spanish football. For its American bet, LaLiga allied itself with Relevent Sports, the group of Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and promoter of the Formula-1 Grand Prix of that city.

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“He is a very reputable person in the United States and with a very important knowledge of sports and the media industry with which we have been able to make an aggressive investment in the market in terms of content generation, activations, events, relations with the media. of local communication, weekly shows for the American fan and that has led us to strong growth”, points out Óscar Mayo, executive general director of LaLiga.

Mayo explains that the international position came by applying to football the professionalization and logic of any other sector: “If we wanted to continue growing, we had to go abroad because the quota and interest in Spain was at its highest.” It has been a global strategy, but adapted to each market. “There are five really global big competitions that are the Champions League, Premier League, La Liga, NBA and Formula 1. There are other competitions like the NFL (the American football league) or cricket in India, which are very big because they are in a very large market, but they hardly transcend their territory”, he maintains.

He believes that the relevance of the report prepared by LLYC on the perception of Spain in the United States is a consequence of the work that has been done there. “We are at very, very high audience numbers. The commitment to ESPN has been important with a strategic agreement two years ago as its most important soccer content, with triple distribution: open-air games in the United States on ABC, more cable games on ESPN and all league games on ESPN+ for the most soccer fans. That, together with the generation of local content and the interaction in social networks means that you are in the conversation of the American public”, he explains.

There are also factors that play in your favor for the future. “There is a Latino community that is growing, with many second and third generation Latinos, who are Native Americans with increasing purchasing power, where interest in soccer is very, very high. In the rest, soccer is also penetrating and the World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada that is coming in 2026 is going to cause interest to grow,” says Mayo.

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