We’ve got mail: The DNA of FC Barcelona

We’ve got mail: The DNA of FC Barcelona

totalBarça was recently contacted by Fanbrandz – an organization that specializes in sports branding.  In this edition of We’ve got mail we bring you the article that Fanbrandz shared with us in order to explore the Barça brand and how it is rooted in the organization,  squads, and fans.  

Franchise Branding Profile: The DNA of FC Barcelona

As a sports branding firm who believes in preserving and evolving a team’s brand DNA based on a team’s culture, heritage and performance, we at Fanbrandz cannot think of a better role model than FC Barcelona. Called Barca for short, perhaps no franchise on planet Earth answers the questions: how and when do your fans embrace your team as their own? And how do you keep those fans loyal generation after generation? quite like the Catalans.

Barca caught our attention last week during an episode of CBS 60 Minutes, which highlighted the team as being the quintessential European professional athlete recruitment model. A modern day sports monarchy, Barca’s system is explained in the Robert Simon-narrated piece to recruit and train local players as young as seven years old to attend their extremely vigorous, year-round overnight youth academy, La Masia (pronounced mah-see-uh). World famous “first-teamers” like forward Andrés Iniesta, midfielder Francesc “Cesc” Fàbregas Soler, defender Gerard Piqué i Bernabeu, and defender Carles Puyol i Saforcada all came up through the La Masia system from a very young age and were local boys. This successful system allows Barca to poach international talent at a young age as well. In the case of Lionel Andrés “Leo” Messi, the team’s best player, he began training exclusively with the club at age 13, relocating from his native Argentina to the Northeast of Spain province. The end result is some of the world’s greatest soccer team (and individual) branding:

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As far as Barca’s front office goes … imagine if NFL or MLB fans were stock holders and voted on management appointments and other front office decisions every year for their team … having a say in who the next New York Jets GM will be sounds nice, right? Well, that’s exactly what Barcelona does. They have over 170,000 active members that come together to form a non-profit. Through voting, the members hold the front office execs accountable. The acting current president of FC Barcelona, 46-year-old Sandro Rosell i Feliu, has himself been a club member through family since he was a boy and was elected president in June 2010, when he won 61% of the vote.

This all creates a group of iconic players and executives that purport brand DNA in a way so unique it can only be explained by those who are involved. When asked, President Feliu’s quote from the 60 Minutes episode on what Barcelona’s slogan, more than a club, means is especially captivating. “It’s a feeling. It’s part of our lives. It’s within our heart. It’s part of our culture. It’s not only 11 players playing a game against 11 players and winning or losing. It’s much more than this. It’s something that is within your blood.”

The club’s current on-field success (winning 14 of the last 19 possible trophies — something that’s never been done before) comes on the tail end of decades of calculated brand building. One of the original La Liga teams (Barcelona won the inaugural La Liga Cup in 1929), Barca’s logo has remained consistent since the early 1900s, which makes for extremely valuable licensed products. The 60 Minutes episode highlights Camp Nou‘s (the team’s stadium) on-site NIKE store as being the second-highest grossing NIKE store in the world, contributing to Barca’s reported $1.3 billion worth (2012’s 8th largest economic impact by a sports team in the world, according to Forbes). And all the profits don’t go to one or two business moguls — it’s allocated by the fans to numerous non-profit ventures all in the name of FC Barca.

Of course, Barcelona is not the only team in the world who does a good job answering the many complex questions of sports branding. Ask any Bostonian: when and where in life did you realize you were living, eating and breathing all for the love of Green 18, the BoSox and the famous “Snow Pedroias”? And they’ll probably say: win memories stahrted tah fahrm in dah crib! – and other American teams around the U.S. do a superb job fulfilling this notion no matter what their season’s end result is as well — the New York Mets, the Dallas Cowboys, and the L.A. Lakers just for starters — but Barcelona is truly taking the notion of brand DNA to a whole new level, and we thought their story was worth sharing.

We’d like to suggest everyone who keeps up with our blog to watch the CBS 60 Minutes embedded FC Barcelona episode below at some point if you haven’t already. It contains some great interviews and truly displays a work of art in international sports franchise branding. Hasta luego!

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 Special thanks to Adam at Fanbrandz for sharing this excellent piece with us!

Image Credit: FCBarcelona.ca, bethour.com