For the first time, Spanish football’s showpiece event, El Clasico between giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, has been scheduled for a lunchtime kick-off (1200GMT) on Saturday as La Liga seeks to capture Asia’s attention and its cash.
“We are keen to provide our fans in Asia the opportunity to watch Real Madrid and Barcelona face off at a time that is convenient to them,” La Liga’s Chief Communications Officer Joris Evers told AFP.
With a potential television audience of 650 million people, according to La Liga, El Clasico is the most watched club match around the world thanks to its unique mixture of star protagonists and a fierce rivalry fostered over decades both on the field and off it by the distinct cultural differences between Catalonia and Madrid.
“It is the ideal shop window, the marquee match to show to people Spanish football,” Jose Maria Gay de Liebana, professor of economics at Barcelona University and an expert in Spanish football finances, said to AFP.
However, it is not just a boom in lucrative television rights that La Liga and its two biggest clubs are seeking with an early start this weekend, but a showcase for all of their lucrative sponsorship contracts.
Last year Barcelona signed a club record shirt sponsorship deal worth a minimum of 220 million euros ($258 million) over four years with Japanese online retailer Rakuten.
“They want to sell their products to international markets, above all in Asia,” added Gay de Liebana.
According to a study carried out by consumer analytics specialists Nielsen Sports, last season’s corresponding first La Liga Clasico of the season generated more than $42.5 million in media value for sponsors.
“The kick-off of the next El Clasico on December 23 is at 1300 Madrid time, 2000 in Shanghai, 1900 in Jakarta and 1730 in New Delhi,” continued Evers.
“These are all locations where we know there are many La Liga fans and where we will be hosting events to celebrate El Clasico.
“Additional events are being held in various locations around Asia. Through this and other initiatives we want to make existing fans even bigger La Liga supporters and, of course, we want to attract new supporters as well.”