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The new-vecchia signora

FC Barcelona wins the financial duel but Juventus’ management model is already widely admired

On April 9, 2003, when I started as FC Barcelona’s Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer, and coinciding with a Champions League quarter-final match between Juventus and Barcelona at the old Delle Alpi stadium, I asked to meet with Romy Gai, my counterpart in the Italian team. I wanted to learn from his marketing management model which, at the time, was making them earn 50% more than FC Barcelona on sponsorships (a 27% up overall) with an old stadium that hosted only 20,000 tifossi per game back then.

Juventus would win that tie -with Barcelona’s current manager Luis Enrique playing in both games- and eventually reach the final at Old Trafford, yielding to Milan in the penalty shootout. It was the last great performance by the Vecchia Signora in Europe. That Champions League final would lead to the team’s worst period, where it experienced an administrative relegation and the removal of titles because of the Calciopoli case, while it disappeared from the elite of European football and even suffered to reach the top positions of the Italian championship.

Quite the opposite of FC Barcelona, which since then has won 8 leagues and 3 Champions over 12 years. This difference on the pitch has been consequently reflected in the results off the pitch. Thus, during this period the club has gone from having revenues a 27% lower than Juventus (2003/04) to beat the Italians by a whopping 74% (485 vs € 279m in 2013/14).

Juventus has a plan to rise again

After hitting the bottom on a sporting level in 2011 (7th in Serie A for the second consecutive year and out of the Champions League), the club from Turin launched a transformation plan in all areas of management, with the ultimate goal of being the best Italian team again, recovering European splendour and tackling the continued losses incurred by the Agnelli family. Since then, Juventus has won the last four scudetto, moved to a new and cosy stadium, has regularly participated in the Champions League and has doubled its revenues. Let's see.

As for revenues from television rights, the team’s consistent presence in the Champions League and the lucrative Italian broadcasting market have enabled Juventus to reach revenues of € 153m, accounting for a 55% of the total. So much so that in the event of losing the final in Berlin, Juventus would still earn around 40% more than Barcelona from UEFA (approximately € 75m).

On the other hand, Barcelona, which reached € 182m in the penultimate year of individual rights sales (€ 42m from Champions), has a much more diversified structure of revenues and TV revenues represent only a 38% of the total.

Juventus Stadium: the philosopher’s stone

Building a new stadium -pioneer in Italy for being owned by the Club and for reducing capacity- turned into tripling revenues to € 41m, increasing attendance and reaching 90% occupancy. While revenues are far from the € 117m that Barcelona gets with its Camp Nou, sporting success and a full stadium every game produced a multiplier effect on all areas and have resulted in major new sponsorship contracts. This is the case of the new technical sponsor Adidas, replacing Nike this summer in exchange for € 23m per year (a 50% more).

FC Barcelona, in the meantime, plays in another league and takes advantage of its positioning as a global club by consistently signing regional sponsorship deals scattered all over the world (up to 17) while working on upgrading the revenues obtained from the sponsorship on the shirt (Qatar Airways and Nike) to adapt these contracts to the income of those recently signed by the likes of Manchester United (Chevrolet and Adidas) and Chelsea (Yokohama Tyres).

Higher investment in signings, better players and more supporters all around the world

The healthy economy of both Champions League finalists allowed both teams to invest in excess of € 500m on new players over the past four years. If it were not for the exceptional investment made by the catalans last summer, at the gates of receiving FIFA’s sanction, we can observe how Juventus invested more than FC Barcelona on 2 out of 4 of the last summer transfer windows.

When it comes to attracting fans, Barcelona clearly prevails with around 125m followers on social networks around the world, opposed to Juventus’ 21m. The same applies to the players of both teams and their presence on social networks. In this sense, the Italian team definitely needs to export its dominance in the domestic market (29% of fans in Italy vs. 25% of Barcelona in Spain).

In any case, the story of the new-vecchia signora is certainly very appealing to open doors internationally, attracting new fans and sponsors based on the good sporting momentum, the success story of the new stadium and the growth in all areas. All this defying the current trend in Italian football and with P&L reflecting profits again this season, the first time in many years.

The recent signing by Juventus of Tecate beer (which also sponsors FC Barcelona) as a regional partner in México will undoubtedly be followed by many others. And if the Italians can make up for lost ground internationally, they will certainly re-join the exclusive club of global franchises.

Business wise Barcelona will continue to play in a different league to the Italian for some years and it’s also the favourite to lift the Champions League trophy in Berlin. However, the return of the vecchia signora is definitely fantastic news for football.