Marcos Pelegrin3cropped
Getting to Know: Marcos Pelegrin

LaLiga’s global growth strategy is six years old now and the Spanish Premier League has had a physical presence in Africa since 2015. Here, LaLiga’s Managing Director for Southern Africa talks through that journey and offers some insight into the man behind the title.

Q: How long have you been in South Africa and what are your observations of the country, people, and sports industry here?
I have been in South Africa for two and a half years. I still can’t believe how quickly time flies. I´m honestly loving it here. I always feel welcome wherever I go in the country and I can definitely call South Africa home. Regarding the sports industry, there is so much potential for the industry to boom. A lot of work needs to be done. Looking back 15 years ago, very few people were looking at sports as an economic driver and now, in Spain my homeland, sports represents almost 1.4% of the Spanish GDP. 

Q: How big is the LaLiga Southern Africa team and do you have a presence in any other African countries?
We are a team of five in the LaLiga office in South Africa, but we do have a presence through delegates across the African continent in Angola, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Morocco, and Egypt, plus a few other colleagues working on the Africa team from LaLiga headquarters in Madrid. Even though we don´t get to see each other a lot lately, it is one of the most enriching working environments I have ever enjoyed. There are eight different nationalities within the team, so it brings many angles to every project. This extensive presence is one of our main differentiators with any other sports property, because it gives us the opportunity of understanding every market and to modify our strategies according to what the region demands.

Q: Ultimately, what does LaLiga want to achieve in Southern Africa?
Our main goal is to bring LaLiga closer to its fans. Distance, or whatever reason, should never be an excuse not to enjoy LaLiga. One of the key areas is to become the main point of contact for LaLiga clubs in the region. We’re here, we know the fans, the market etc. That´s a competitive advantage for all our 42 clubs, that they can use us. We can’t forget that the long-term growth relies on the clubs, rather than solely with LaLiga. Also, we want to be a relevant agent for the growth of football in Africa, because this will benefit us all.

Q: As MD, what do you regard as your key areas of responsibility?
There are several key areas of work here, but mainly to look out for my team and the brand here. Then, everything falls under those two.

Q: What does your daily routine look like?
One of the things I love the most about my job is that there´s no routine. We work in so many different areas: communication, digital, commercial, marketing, institutional, CSI, sports projects…that there are no two similar days. We´re always trying to develop innovative projects so yes, we do spend a lot of hours at the office, especially with family being in Spain, but it´s pure fun. The part that I do not have to be seated in one place, and that I get the chance to move around and meet people in different parts of the world, is the best part of my job.

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Q: How would you describe the impact of Covid-19 on LaLiga, globally, and in Southern Africa?
We could say it´s been positive in some respects. During the first lockdown, it pushed the team to think out of the box and reinvent ourselves to keep being relevant in the region, and the outcome was a few very nice projects, like the e-sports challenge between Real Sociedad and Orlando Pirates or the digital show “LaLiga Inside with…”. We are also proud that even with the challenges of the pandemic we could last year host the first LaLiga Camps in South Africa in Johannesburg, to give hundreds of young girls and boys the chance to be exposed to LaLiga’s coaching methods and philosophy, led by LaLiga’s top UEFA Pro Licensed coaches and top local coaches. The next LaLiga Camps will be held in Cape Town soon and this is an initiative we are very proud of. We also managed to digitally host coaching ‘masterclasses’ with some of COSAFA’s top professional and grassroots coaches, led by our clubs Athletic Club and Real Club Celta de Vigo. So, despite the pandemic we continue to reach out and make an impact in ensuring LaLiga adds tangible value to the development of African football. After the lockdown, LaLiga was one of the few competitions which managed to come back, so the audiences in the region exploded. Obviously, the pandemic brought its challenges to the business, but I don´t want to complain, as there are millions of people and companies that have suffered more.

Q: Your local broadcast relationship is with SuperSport. Have you explored taking the LaLiga offering to the SABC and broadening the brand’s exposure in this market?
The audio-visual landscape is one of the most complex areas of our industry, but the reality is that SuperSport is arguably one of the best sports broadcasters in the world. As a rights-holder, you want to partner with someone that treats your product as you would, and with SuperSport that’s exactly what happens. Apart from an exclusive rights package, we do have a free-to-air package, which includes one game each matchday and those rights are awarded to eTV.

Q: What do you believe the modern-day football fan is looking for from its relationship with a particular brand/league, such as LaLiga, in terms of content and overall engagement experience?
It is difficult to identify the modern-day football fan, as it has so many different versions, but we believe that fan wants to connect with the clubs and the players. That’s why we try to develop content around them and provide meaningful experiences. Also, we understand that modern fans want properties to get closer to them and that´s why most of our initiatives are completely tailormade to the specific country or community. For example, to celebrate our fifth anniversary in South Africa, we organised a braai, we have launched the African MVP trophy, and we speak more than 35 languages on social media.

Q: Has the impact of Covid-19 changed this?
I believe it is still too soon to analyse the consequences of the pandemic, in terms of behaviour around sports, but there are challenges, like bringing back fans to stadiums – and opportunities – like more people practicing sports after lockdown. As always, there´s going to be winners and losers, depending on how sports and properties adjust to changes.

Q: Away from the office, what do you like to do in your down time?
It depends on the day, but playing and watching sports is one thing I really love doing, along with spending time with friends and exploring. One of my favourite things in life is to laugh, and to make people laugh. But this can be done almost everywhere… When I came here, I was introduced to golf, which I’m currently really passionate about, given that two of my preferred sports (basketball and padel tennis) are quite niche here.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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