In this interview, Miguel Ángel Leal, CEO of LaLiga Tech, shared the unique story of LaLiga Tech, the world’s first football league foraying into the sphere of sports technology, as well as its mission to empower sports and entertainment.
Founded by one of the world’s largest football leagues, why and how did LaLiga Tech all begin?
Miguel Ángel Leal: The foundations of LaLiga Tech were laid in 2014 when LaLiga began taking steps to digitize its competition. For many years it has been necessary to build close digital relationships with fans and to make content more discoverable, more informative, and more engaging. In order to achieve global growth, competitions have to listen to the needs of fans and give them the experiences they are looking for, and in our opinion, data analysis is the only way to deliver on this strategy. We did not find a solution on the market that could deliver the holistic digital transformation that we were looking for, so we began to build the solutions ourselves and hire the experts who could bring them together. This is where LaLiga Tech comes from: it is the result of seven years of development, €200m of technology investment, and 150 expert technology professionals. It is the only specialized sports technology offering developed by a sports company, and all of this expertise is what we are offering to the market to help them make the transition that we have made.
What is the nature of the connection with its parent company – LaLiga?
LaLiga Tech is a separate entity within LaLiga that aims to accelerate the digital transformation of the industry, sharing the expertise that has powered LaLiga’s innovation since 2014. LaLiga Tech maintains responsibility for managing the ecosystem of technology products and services for LaLiga while offering the same services to the wider industry as managed cloud services.
Your motto is “Empowering Sport & Entertainment” is this something much more than just football/sports? Could you tell us more? Maybe a few examples of what you mean by “entertainment”.
We see sport as part of the wider entertainment industry. Fans are looking for activities that go beyond the matches themselves to stay engaged with their favorite teams or competitions. These could include Fantasy games, online gaming, new digital experiences, additional programming, e-commerce. Our solutions are designed to help sports organizations create this wider digital ecosystem that can engage fans all week long, not just during matches. We can also help broadcasters to maximize the impact of their digital content, which could be TV shows, live-streamed events, or online brand merchandise.
Who are LaLiga Tech’s core target customers? On your website, both brands and content creators are featured, but which one is more prominent?
Our heritage is sports and entertainment and that is where we are focused. Our target will remain primarily with those who offer a sporting product to their fans and need to maximize their content while building strong digital relationships with fans.
It is true that our solutions have also been used by government organizations and media organizations outside of sport – for sure they can be applied to content beyond sports. For example, we offer solutions to protect against brand counterfeiting, which is applicable to fashion brands as well as sports.
Could you name some most important clients of yours at the moment?
We already work with rights holders and competitions across different sports, including World Padel Tour, Dorna Sports, Sky Mexico, and the Jupiler Pro League, as well as other clubs, broadcasters, and competitions from across different continents.
Do you develop all of your solutions in-house, or do you outsource any of them to third-party providers?
Our ecosystem has been developed in-house and is managed by LaLiga Tech. The solutions were built internally to address specific issues for sports and entertainment because we did not find a ready-made market offer that could meet these needs. To complement these solutions, we work with first-rate third-parties and can integrate other third-party technologies into the ecosystem as our clients require.
I noticed LaLiga Tech focuses on three aspects: fan engagement, content enhancement, and competition management. Could you elaborate on each pillar and which is the business’s core?
Fan engagement focuses on building multi-channel connections with a global fanbase, creating new digital fan engagements that are more impactful and profitable. This could involve OTT platforms, competition apps, or stadium solutions, all of which generate fan data that be used to create better and more relevant experiences.
Content enhancementinvolves analyzing and adding new features to content like live data or graphics that can create a better understanding for the fan. We also provide a team of industry experts who protect content against global piracy, helping competitions retain their value.
Competition managementproducts can drastically cut the time needed to manage competition processes and make the sport more inclusive and dynamic while generating added value that improves decision making.
The core to all of this is our digital ecosystem, which interconnects any and all of the above products, meaning vital information about fan behaviors and business departments can be shared across the whole organization.
What would be LaLiga’s most outstanding products at this moment?
A large number of clients use our Content Protection – an advanced anti-piracy solution that has a quick time to market and demonstrably strong results, but interest across our product range is high.
The most important factor behind LaLiga Tech is data analysis and the interconnectivity of platforms. Making investments in single technology products, for example, an OTT or a new fantasy game is unlikely to prove cost-effective if the data is not integrated with the wider ecosystem. Everything offered by LaLiga Tech, from the applications we build to our match data platforms, is managed under a single ecosystem, meaning insights from one part of the business can inform another in real-time, and our understanding of fan behaviors becomes far more complete. Our solutions are available as managed cloud solutions in a 100% open ecosystem, which means flexibility and scalability for companies of all sizes, the ability to incorporate third-party solutions, and the assistance of our data analysis experts.
What are the company’s monetization model and its primary revenue stream?
Our products have been monetized as cloud services and our revenue comes from working with global sports organizations on the gradual digital transformation of their competitions. We have not made precise growth predictions but our ambition is to lead the digital transformation of sports and entertainment, which is a rapidly growing market. We think that double-digit growth over the coming years is realistic.
How can LaLiga Tech differentiate in an ocean of MarTech businesses competing for sports/entertainment brands? What is your USP?
We are the only organization to combine the experience of organizing a global sports competition with technology development, and we have a proposal that can quicken other organizations’ time to deploy new technologies and achieve growth. It is a solution designed by the sector, for the sector. Nobody else has an offering like our digital ecosystem, a single and scalable platform that can incorporate all technology solutions needed to manage a sports competition in a single place. It is a huge differentiator for organizations that are looking to grow in a holistic and modular way.
Who are your main competitors, and is there anything you want to learn the most from them?
The industry has a range of specialist providers for building engaging apps, streaming services, or data capture platforms. There are competitors that can offer a good user experience and even drive monetization, but the next step is to integrate these into an ecosystem that can apply this data to other places. Perhaps our biggest competition comes from attitudes towards digital transformation. That is the biggest risk we face, that we do not make these changes while other industries do. The pandemic caused many traditional revenue streams to disappear suddenly and those industries that were more digitally agile did not suffer as much.
What is your current project with LaLiga Tech? Could you share one of your most favorite projects/experiences?
It has been a privilege to be part of this organization’s public launch and to see a fully-fledged sports technology company arrive on the market. In the four months, I have been here, I have been so impressed by the expertise the team has brought and the ambition that new customers have shown to accelerate their digital transformation. My immediate focus is on helping these organizations to put the building blocks in place to start long-term growth projects.
How can you compete with other industries when it comes to luring tech talents and experts?
We provide a mix that is very hard to find: B2B technology projects and digital transformation in an industry that is loved around the world. Sport and entertainment have huge cultural importance so being actively involved in this space is a privilege. Even more so in an organization like LaLiga which has a huge global following of 2.8 billion and a long heritage of technology development. We are in a unique position to help other organizations follow the path we have made.