“We are entering this partnership with a global company that understands, as do we, that Flamengo is a global brand and that it has a huge potential to grow even more around the world,” said Gustavo Oliveira, Flamengo’s vice president of marketing and communications.
The partnership includes the development of the Rio de Janeiro club’s international strategy, English-language digital audience development, asset development and commercial sales services, and experiential and live events production with a focus on the North American market.
“Flamengo is one of the most popular sports teams in both South America and globally,” said Karim Fathi, vice president of digital for the Americas region at Sportfive. “Flamengo is killing it in their local market. And our goal is to translate that into a higher level in the U.S.”
Caetano Marcelino, international affairs and sports rights manager of Flamengo, said the club is targeting three main markets abroad. The club is working with an agency in China to grow its fan engagement there.
Another target is Europe. “We are looking to buy a Portuguese club,” Marcelino said, “because Portugal is the league that sells the most players in the world.”
But North America is a priority. “They are way more developed as a sports market, and we are looking forward to extending and increasing our presence in the U.S.,” he said.
The partnership comes at a crucial time for Brazilian soccer. In November, Sportico reported that a potential new league made up of Brazil’s top clubs has secured financing and is in the due diligence stage of making it happen. The team behind the league project consists of Brazilians and Americans with backgrounds in finance and media. Last July, the group confirmed the project had secured $1 billion in funding from a U.S.-based investment firm.
In December, American investor John Textor bought one of Flamengo’s rival clubs, Botafogo, for approximately $100 million. Last month, the Miami-based private equity firm 777 Partners acquired another Rio-based team, Vasco de Gama.
These new investments, Marcelino said, happened because the Brazilian market has reached maturity and because of changes in ownership rules. But he said foreign investment in the club was unnecessary “because we are financially stable.”
This is Sportfive’s first partnership with a soccer club in South America. The marketing agency has worked with many European soccer teams, as well as with leagues and federations in Asia and Africa. The company has also partnered with the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and New York Jets in international markets.