On Monday, February 16th, it was announced that Huawei and Club América of Liga MX entered into a three-year partnership agreement (financials of the deal not disclosed) that will see the Chinese-based telecommunications giant become the club’s shirt sponsor. Huawei has been on a mission to insert itself into global soccer community and now adds Club América to its portfolio of clubs around the world, which includes the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Wellington Phoenix FC, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Galatasaray, Ajax Capetown, Independiente Santa Fe, as well as the Ghana National Team, and the LFP in Spain.
Of the 18 clubs competing in the Mexican top flight this season, Club América has won the most league titles (12) and currently is fighting for another, currently sitting in third in the league table. This is not the first international mega brand that the club has courted however. The team boasts names like Coca Cola, Nike, Calvin Klein, and Bimbo, among others, amongst its portfolio of partners.
Huawei president Zachary Jiang explained how the company landed on Club América as their targeted partner within Liga MX, stating,
When we asked who was the best team in Mexico, everyone said Club America.
The surge of Middle Eastern and Asian influence in global soccer over the last decade has been well documented throughout the industry, and this deal is yet another example of companies in that region realizing the business opportunity that top soccer clubs represent. Liga MX is one of the top leagues in the western hemisphere and Club América is arguably the most popular club within the league – being based in Mexico City doesn’t hurt. The club’s chief executive, Jose Romano, said,
It’s with real pride that Club America can generate confidence with big brands. At the moment it’s just a business alliance, but who knows what technology they can offer us to help our players’ overall game.
Huawei coming into Liga MX could have been influenced by a bit more than just the club and the opportunity, however. The telecommunications market in Mexico is all but a monopoly under the world’s third richest man, according to Forbes, Carlos Slim, who owns América Móvil, among other business ventures, which is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, let alone Mexico. Given Slim’s already questionable involvement in Mexican soccer with ownership in multiple clubs, as outlined previously by Business of Soccer, getting involved with another club other than the two that he has ownership stake in, Club León and Pachuca, doesn’t quite seem likely. Though nothing has been released regarding Slim’s involvement in Huawei’s deal with Club América, the coming together of the one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturers and one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks in the same league is somewhat curious all the same.
Regardless of any outside influences, Mexico does represent a strong business opportunity for Huawei with an 87% mobile penetration rate, according to a recent report. Soccer is the country’s most popular professional sport and the league has established itself as one of the most dominant leagues in the region, and is more developed in terms of maturity than MLS or other neighboring leagues. Latching onto the most popular club in the top flight of the country’s most popular sport certainly resonates in terms of relevance for Huawei. They will certainly look to capitalize on an already mature mobile market to try and get one of their products in the hands of Club América fans (and obviously non-fans as well), and probably will look to activate with the club via mobile platforms to help make that association more conspicuous to supporters. Second-screen viewing trends certainly don’t hurt Huawei in this regard, and the continued evolvement of that space and the way fan viewership continues to move towards mobile platforms indicates that there will almost assuredly be more opportunities for Huawei and Club América to come together in the future.