Around this time last year, Mexican soccer was going through a fairly large change. The domestic league had adopted a new format whereby over the length of one season, there would be in fact two smaller seasons, crowning two league champions over that time. The two seasons, called the Apertura which runs from August to December, and the Clausara which runs from January to May, would both end in an 8 team playoff tournament leading to one Champion with another team not from the 8 and bottom of the table relegated with each half season. Currently, TV rights for the league are sold on an individual team basis which lead to a duopoly domination by Televisa and TV Azteca, though Carlos Slim’s recent moves within the league have acted to break up that dominance and introduce some new players including Univision, ESPN and Telemundo among others.
Contrary to most leagues in North and South America, it was during this time that Liga MX had sought out a title sponsorship partner. Most leagues on this side of the Atlantic don’t have major league sponsorships partners, with MLS, The Campeonato Brasileiro Series in Brasil, Liga Nacional in Honduras and so on all operating with major corporate league title sponsors. The practice is fairly common in Europe though, with the Spanish, Italian and British Leagues all having major corporate partners included in the League names, garnering fairly large sums of money. Unfortunately at the time LIGA MX was unable to secure a partner and the first Apertura and Clausara went by with no official sponsor. This has now changed.
Just yesterday, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria’s (BBVA) Mexican institution BBVA Bancomer announced a partnership with Liga MX with the league from this point forward being called the Liga BBVA Bancomer. This follows a dual timeline of both sports and North American exposure for the banking giant. If BBVA has not popped up somewhere on TV recently in the past couple of years in North American or European sports competition then you have been watching professional bowling and curling.
BBVA is a multi-national banking group originating in Spain from an amalgamation of three major banks and a number of smaller entities forming a single entity in 1999, holding its headquarters in Bilbao in the north of Spain. It is Spain’s second largest Bank, with a heavy presence in Latin American countries as well as Italy and Portugal.
Though BBVA’s public presence has increased dramatically in the United States, the Bank has actually been in the US since 2007. They became the fourth largest bank in Texas over 2005 and 2006 with their acquisitions of Laredo National Bank, State National Bancshares and Texas Regional Bancshares. Later in 2007, an agreement was announced between BBVA and Compass Bancshares of Birmingham Alabama for Compass to become a wholly owned subsidiary of BBVA for roughly $9.5 billion. With this deal, BBVA consolidated all four of their American banking acquisitions into BBVA Compass in late 2007, creating the second largest financial institution in the Sun Belt with a major presence in Alabama, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico Florida, California and Colorado. Initially it looked like a questionable decision with the 2008 banking crisis causing BBVA to take a $1.3 billion write-down but now BBVA Compass has moved on from the crisis to become one of the biggest banking institutions in the country and close to $65 billion in assets.
BBVA has some experience in professional sports sponsorship at arguably a very high level with Spain’s national soccer league, Liga BBVA, since 2008, however it was not until 2010 that it gained a partner in the US. In 2010, BBVA announced itself as an official partner of the NBA and so began a huge multi level cross promotional marketing plan between the Bank and arguably one of the US’s top 3 most popular sports. Following suit, BBVA Compass moved into college football by sponsoring a BCS Bowl game in Birmingham and recently in 2012 became the Primary Stadium Sponsor of MLS’s Houston Dynamo as well as a corporate sponsor for the club itself.
Located in Houston, the BBVA Compass Stadium is considered one of the most urban soccer-specific stadiums in the country. Costing a total of $95 million, it seats 22,000 making it the third largest soccer stadium in the country and BBVA pays roughly $2 million a year to have its name on the stadium by signing a 10-year $20 million agreement.
With BBVA Compass’ and BBVA’s status in the US growing through their corporate partnerships, it seems only fitting that BBVA’s Mexican arm, BBVA Bancomer move into a major sponsorship agreement as well. In fact, it is a little surprising that something like this hasn’t occurred sooner. BBVA Compass and the US presence didn’t occur until 2008, but BBVA Bancomer has been in Mexico since 2000. Currently BBVA Bancomer represents 30% of BBVA’s total worldwide revenue and also operates as the largest financial institution in Mexico holding close to 20% market share.
With that being said, BBVA’s partnership does seem like a very good deal for the bank. In the very first Clausara championship between Cruz Azul and Club America,the game not only broke Univision ratings records, but the final was also the most socially engaged event. With over 75 million viewers in Mexico alone, the league is broadcast in over 40 countries and has over 300 million active Twitter and Facebook users combined.
Unlike an apparel or similar company, BBVA cannot create an agreement between the league and itself to exclusively provide certain products to the league due to the nature of its banking product. Depending on the specifics of the agreement though, they will most likely be allowed to use the league trophy, logo and images in a cross promotional strategy that will reach an obscenely large Mexican population as well as a fairly large American population due to recent multimedia deals with ESPN and Fox Sports. With more than 6 million in attendance for games as well as the expansive TV distribution of the league, this agreement puts BBVA among a select few companies with such an expansive North American reach.
BBVA recently extended its sponsorship with La Liga in Spain to 2016 agreeing to an annual $31.2 million payment. Beyond this a $2 million a year agreement for BBVA Compass Stadium, and with the NBA deal believed to be over $100 million through the length of the deal, BBVA’s investment in sports is massive. The profile of soccer in Mexico is the largest of any sport by far in the country, and signing this deal, BBVA has cemented itself as an institution of Mexico and North America. Though the financial details of the agreement of the new Liga BBVA Bancomer were not released, it should be fairly substantial financially and certainly represent a major investment for the Bilbao based bank.