Barcelona flies high with two Chinese deals and bids to keep Qatar Airways on-board

By Paul Nicholson

December 13 – Barcelona have added two new Chinese partners while ‘soon-to-end’ shirt sponsor Qatar Airways has confirmed that it is still in discussion with the club over commercial opportunities once Rakuten take over as the new main sponsor next season.

Barcelona has been keen to keep Qatar Airways on-board once Japanese e-tailer and digital communications specialists Rakuten start their €220 million deal with the club next summer.

Barcelona VP of Marketing Manel Arroyo said that the club “did not want to abandon its relationship with Qatar.” That relationship would most obviously be as club’s official airline sponsor, a conversation that Spanish media has reported to be taking place and confirmed by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

Turkish Airlines was the club’s last official airline sponsor but that deal ended in 2013. It has also been suggested that Qatar Airways could become a possible sponsor of the Espai Barça complex, new Camp Nou or the first team’s training shirts.

Breaking down Chinese walls

While focus is on the Qatar deal potential, the club has announced a three year regional sponsorship with BNN Technology, a London-listed Chinese technology, content and services company.

The core of the deal is around the right to run branded football events, money-can’t-buy experiences and football camp content online via BNN’s partner NewNet on the Xinhua News app. Exclusive Barcelona content and competitions will also be available via the app.

The deal will also see NewNet run a series of football camps each season in China, where over 300 young Chinese amateur football players will be trained by Barcelona coaches following the FCB training methodology. One of these camps will be held at Barcelona’s official training centre and will include taking participants to a match at Camp Nou.

Back to school

Barca has also extended its reach into the academic business community in China, signing a deal with the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University which, said the clubwhich will aid collaboration in the development of the sports industry in China and globally.”

The partners will create a knowledge centre – the PKU-GSM FC Barcelona Sports Management Center – “which will allow the two institutions to develop activities and models of sport management together in a new Asian hub.” An early activity will see Chinese students in Barcelona taking courses in sports management from the first semester of 2017.

For Barcelona the strategic hook-up with a leading Chinese business educator and the next generation of Chinese sports business professionals will help keep the club at the front end of the development of the game in China and its commercial opportunities.

Through this alliance FCB Universitas, which is FC Barcelona’s platform for research, investigation, education and innovation, will have a great opportunity to develop the task of acquiring, generating and transmitting knowledge and innovation. Moreover, it will allow the Barça brand to grow in this strategic country for the club.

Dr. Jordi Monés, Director at FC Barcelona and Comissioner of FCB Universitas Sport Innovation Hub, said: “Barça needs to be at the forefront of knowledge in order to maintain the levels of excellence in all areas of the club. This is an important agreement for FCB Universitas, which is the club platform for the acquisition, generation, dissemination and transfer of knowledge, and looks to create strategic alliances with the best scientific, cultural and higher education institutions in the world. This is the case with Peking University and the Guanghua School of Management.”

“Together we have created the Sport Management Center, where we will contribute all our experience and knowledge that the club has accumulated over the years in areas such as performance, methodology or sports management among others. Guanghua School of Management will contribute their experience and model of innovation in China, which will help consolidate us as a knowledge and innovation hub in the world of sport in Asia.”

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