FC Barcelona makes marketing moves into Asia

Spanish champion FC Barcelona has sealed a three-year partnership with Singapore-listed Asia Pacific Breweries, makers of Tiger Beer, to increase the club's regional brand image and fan base. The partnership will see the Catalan club undertake major promotional activities in South East Asia with fans being offered opportunities to win paid trips to watch Barcelona games at its Camp Nou stadium, along with shirts and other club memorabilia. The club won the Spanish La Liga title for the second straight year and was crowned European champion in May when it beat English Premier League club Arsenal.

Coincidentally, this is Tiger Beer's second such partnership after previously signing with Arsenal. "What we are trying to do is build a portfolio, a group of the world's best clubs, for what we think is the world's best football fan club. Asian fans are different, they want to have selection of football and we chose not to have another club in the EPL because our favourite club is Arsenal in the EPL," Les Buckley, the brewery's group commercial director, told Patwant Singh of Singapore's Channel NewsAsia. He also assured football fans that the partnership was not simply a chance for European clubs to exploit Asia. "It is important that everybody plays their part and does their duty to raise the quality of the game," Buckley told Today newspaper.

"Tiger is now the official partner of Futbol Club Barcelona in the South East Asian markets of Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos," the club's international business director, Javier Munoa, detailed. "This is going to be a very ambitious program ... what we want to do is create many moments of contact between the fans and Barca," Munoa told AFP, adding that the club wanted to be one of the top global clubs. "We think there is room for up to five and we think in Asia, South East Asia is key. Compared to other regions like South America where they follow mainly their domestic league, here the fans follow their domestic leagues but they also follow the international leagues," he said.

Part of Barcelona's Asian promotion strategy will be representing Europe at the FIFA Club World Cup (formerly Toyota Cup), played in Japan. "For this summer and the next 12 months, we plan to come three times to the region. We are planning to go to play the Toyota Cup in Japan in December. And in the end of the next season, we are planning to come twice to Asia to play friendlies," Munoa told CNA.

Munoa acknowledges English clubs Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are ahead in terms of building their brand image with Asian football fans but he sees the gap closing with such stars as Ronaldinho, FIFA's World Player of the Year who played for Brazil during the just-concluded World Cup. "It helps a lot. Ronaldinho has become a global icon," said Munoa. "He's the best player in the world and he is also the most popular ... It's a good combination."

The club's commercial manager Esteve Calzada, is visiting East Asia to sign deals with Titan Sports (an exclusive Barça magazine for the Chinese market), Sports CN (producing an exclusive Chinese language website) and Eurosoccer (Barça TV to be broadcast throughout China) in Beijing and with Rakuten (for the use of credit cards carrying the Barça logo, the creation of a Japanese language website and an exclusive Barça magazine for sale in Japan) in Tokyo.

See also: Barcelona tipped to promote UN agency on shirts (6 July) and Tiger beer marketer on "a good football night out" (29 May) and Tiger Beer ramps up promotion of English football (3 Nov 05)