LaLiga has been one of the world’s most proactive sports bodies when it comes to ensuring its fans remain engaged during COVID-19, with the organisation stating its strategy has sought to provide entertainment while also recognising the health crisis in Spain.
Spain, along with Italy, have been Europe’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with the Ministry of Health today (Friday) announcing that the death toll had risen to 10,935, with 117,710 positive tests recorded.
On March 23, LaLiga and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said the suspension of domestic professional competitions would continue on an indefinite basis as the country continues to battle COVID-19. Amid the lockdown in the country, LaLiga, the organising body of the top two divisions of club football, has since launched multiple efforts to engage with fans stuck at home, most recently LaLigaSantander Fest.
Backed by LaLiga’s title sponsor, financial services group Santander, the virtual festival took place on Saturday, raising €1,003,532 (£881,000/$1.08m) for the fight against COVID-19. Under the slogan of ‘Music and football together against COVID-19’, it brought together top musicians and footballers for the first time ever.
Artists such as Alejandro Sanz, David Bisbal, Luis Fonsi and Lang Lang performed from their respective homes as part of the online event, while players from LaLiga clubs also took part. The event was organised by LaLiga in collaboration with Banco Santander, Universal Music, management firm GTS, LaLiga players and clubs and a host of the competition’s sponsors.
It was broadcast simultaneously via LaLiga social media channels, and through LaLigaSportsTV, the league’s global OTT platform. The signal was also made available to LaLiga global broadcast partners, 50 of whom offered coverage of the concert, along with 70 social media accounts and as many media outlets. In total, the event received coverage in 182 countries around the world.
The funds raised through LaLiga Fest will enable the purchase of 115 respirators, 1.4 million face masks, 12,595 sterile protective suits and 500,000 pairs of protective gloves, with a further donation of one million masks from Santander.
A LaLiga spokesman told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “In response to the health crisis and the postponement of football, we put together the #LaLigaSeJuegaEnCasa (LaLiga is played at home) initiative, creating new digital and audiovisual experiences that would entertain and engage people during this period of quarantine.
“Activities range from special TV programming (such as the LaLiga Classics series added to LaLigaTV), to global esports tournaments (LaLiga Santander Challenge) and the LaLigaSantander Fest charity concert. There’s been great engagement here, we understand football is not front of mind for many people but organisations still have a role in providing entertainment where it can.”
Óscar Mayo, director of business and international development at LaLiga, added: “We are very happy with the response received from all fronts. Footballers, clubs, artists and sponsors all joined together for this initiative. LaLiga wants to support everyone who is in quarantine and, at the same time, raise money to buy medical supplies to deal with COVID-19.”
LaLiga has thrown its support behind ‘Saldremos Juntos’ (we will come out of this together), a new solidarity initiative formed by Atlético de Madrid player Saúl Ñíguez. The venture has been designed to support small businesses, freelancers and professionals who are being hit hardest financially by the current pandemic.
The idea has spread rapidly and already has the support of other prominent footballers such as Sergio Busquets, Álvaro Morata, Óliver Torres, Rubén García and Miguel Ángel Moyá, as well as celebrities. Part of the proceeds of LaLiga Fest will go to Ñíguez’s project.
Last month witnessed the #LaLigaSantanderChallenge, a three-day esports tournament using the FIFA 20 game conceived by Spanish esports commentator and influencer Ibai Llanos. Executed with the support of LaLiga, along with Santander and 18 of the league’s players, the competition received more than 11 million views via social channels and raised over €190,000 for UNICEF.
LaLiga Se Juega En Casa has also involved an array of additional digital elements, including LaLiga ambassadors and club training staff offering online training sessions allowing fans at home the chance to train like their idols do.
The LaLiga spokesman said: “Similar to the above, we will continue to use our various channels (digital, audiovisual, apps, web) to create experiences that entertain people. Our strategy is first and foremost to support the health services as they fight this crisis while continuing to entertain our global audience, such as with LaLigaSantander Fest.
“We will also use our network and global presence to support other initiatives, such as the esports tournament idea of Ibai Llanos or the Saldremos Juntos initiative of Saúl Ñíguez.”
In terms of best practice in fan engagement during the current climate, LaLiga believes it is important to strike a balance. The spokesman said: “In times like this people are looking to maintain good, meaningful connections so it’s very important that we remain active and communicate with people.
“As you can see through the above campaigns, we’re working to stay true to our core activities and entertain people. But we’re also not shying away from the fact that there is a health crisis that needs dealing with, I think this comes through in all of our output right now.
“One might argue that people look to football as an ‘escape’ from these hard realities but we think it’s more important to take action and try to use our platform for good.”
Alfredo Bermejo, digital strategy director at LaLiga, added: “Times like these call for creative solutions and we want to do everything we can to help reach the largest possible audience and raise much needed funds to tackle this health crisis.
“The football community is a force for good that works together in times of need. This kind of global energy will help the sport return stronger than ever in the months ahead.”