“Mes que un club” is what defines FC Barcelona. It’s more than a football tagline, it represents the soul of many millions of people says Laurent Colette, FC Barcelona CMO. A great interview of a key Blaugrana executive on Sports Pro Media. Enjoy!
What does mes que un club mean and how is it maintained as a brand?
It means many things. It has been the symbol of a city and a country, which is Catalonia, and they have their own language and their own identity and a very strong historical heritage. We have to understand it’s not only a football club, it represents the soul of many millions of people.
For them their football club is really a part of their identity and a way through which they can express that identity. It’s not only a football club; we’ve got four other professional teams – basketball, handball and so on – and some amateur teams.
We are not only focusing on playing a game and then nothing more, we’ve got a focus on growing home talents; we’ve got La Masia, and I don’t like the word factory but it really is a talent factory.
We attract the best players at the age of 12, 13 and we make them grow within our style of play. We are more than a club also because we believe in values; we think that playing is an expression that can reach millions of fans all over the world, so we have to make sure that we don’t play without any direction, we play under a pattern respecting values such as ambition, fair play, respect and so on.
And also we have a social commitment which is that 0.7 per cent of our budget – which is not nothing, it’s €4 million – goes every year to humanitarian tasks.
And also we’ve got strong agreements with charitable entities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Unicef, and Shakira’s foundation, to use our image, our strength, the way kids perceive us, to transmit messages to the world, to give them hope of a better world.
Can the mes que un club concept be perceived as a little arrogant?
We don’t want or try to be arrogant, we just try to define who we are and we think that facts more than words define what we do. When we say we are more than a club, it’s based on clear examples.
It’s a summary of what we do, and our external partners, the press, the sponsors agree with that. I’ve never heard about anyone being pissed.
It’s in our blood. When you see players like Iniesta, Xavi and Messi, they have been educated in La Masia, they live from very young with Barcelona values so they feel that, and they know that they’re part of a club with history; it’s not a club with a lot of arrogance; we want to connect with the people; we love football so we want to display a very attractive game, if not the fans will be disappointed.
The players know that and they know that unconsciously because it’s so deeply rooted that they understand it.
How important is Barcelona’s style of play to the club’s commercial success?
It’s crucial because it’s part of our identity; everyone recognises us for that. When I was really long – long ago – I was in my French region and my French team was in the second division but I admired what Barcelona were doing because for me they had the best players; there was Cruyff, Neeskens, Krankl at the time. This kind of play is still valid today.
You cannot imagine a Barcelona game without being risky, aggressive in the right sense, offensive and trying to quickly circulate the ball. It’s a way of thinking.
Sometimes it works, like in recent years, sometimes it doesn’t work for many reasons. Sometimes we don’t reach the peaks and that’s normal. There are other teams. But we believe in that way and the public would not understand if we tried to win the Champions League being speculative, defensive.
What do you look for in a sponsor?
I hate the word sponsor. I prefer partner or strategic alliance. Sponsor is something that comes from 2,000 years ago when it was someone rich helping someone poor.
It was usually a painter with no money and a millionaire who doesn’t know how to paint but helps because maybe he will make more money because the painter might become famous or he thinks it’s a nice thing to do.
We expect to find synergies and we want a situation where working together creates a win-win situation in which for us their strength on their markets, the way they communicate with their public helps us to communicate our message, and other way around. It has to be a win-win situation.
I think there are brands we cannot work with because we have different objectives or their personality is not exactly compatible with ours, and there are others that are totally in line with what we want to do.