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When I took the decision, I was walking on my way back home from work. It happened in the small UK village of Winnersh in October 2010, while I was working for sportswear company Mizuno. I had just submitted my dissertation to the MBA in Football Industries at the University of Liverpool. An attractive full-time job proposal had just been offered by the Japanese company. I had to decide whether to accept and stay in England or come back to Brazil. Then I stopped, looked up at a treetop and its leaves which were becoming brown and reached my verdict: I would go back home.

When I took the decision, I was walking on my way back home from work. It happened in the small UK village of Winnersh in October 2010, while I was working for sportswear company Mizuno. I had just submitted my dissertation to the MBA in Football Industries at the University of Liverpool. An attractive full-time job proposal had just been offered by the Japanese company. I had to decide whether to accept and stay in England or come back to Brazil. Then I stopped, looked up at a treetop and its leaves which were becoming brown and reached my verdict: I would go back home.

At that time, my country was still celebrating the confirmation that it would host the summer Olympics in 2016. The mega event was part of a pack of forthcoming events in Brazil which also included the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Both competitions would drive the sports industry to a higher standard of investment, jobs and business opportunities.

My choice proved to be right when I joined Grêmio FBPA, one of the biggest football clubs in Brazil, located in Porto Alegre. There, I assumed a role as a commercial manager in charge of driving the sponsorship scheme and being part of the team involved in the project of the club’s new venue. Grêmio Arena was inaugurated in December 2012, establishing a landmark to the whole Brazilian football industry. It was the first modern arena opened in the country serving as an avant premiere to the set of stadiums being constructed for the World Cup.

Grêmio Arena’s opening also marked the debut of a brand new set of commercial properties. Brazilian sponsors started to deal with naming rights, sector rights, pouring rights and other kinds of new proposals. Game experience also changed not only for the spectators and fans, but also for the stadium operator. An improved product was being served to the market. A different demand emerged from the fanbase and the sponsors.

Another huge transformation was running at the same time in the Brazilian football industry. Actually, it started in 2003 when the Federal Government created the Estatuto do Torcedor (‘Supporter’s Statute’, in a free translation). This piece of law settled, apart from many other improvements, the responsibilities of presidents and club directors. Hence, clubs started to hire reputed professionals. Their position from now onwards was as a chairman or another important seat at the board. This phenomenon witnessed a shift from amateur boards to professional executives, with executives even from other industries than football coming in to drive the clubs. Professionalism has arrived in the Brazilian football industry.

Ten years after the statute’s creation, the 100 biggest Brazilian clubs had enhanced their revenues by 335 per cent. In the last five years, they doubled turnover. The new TV broadcast agreement put in place in 2012 earned the clubs an overall income of R$3.5 billion (US$1.48 billion). Modern arenas and refurbished stadiums explain an enhancement on ticketing revenue in 2013. This category of income added another R$475 million (US$200 million) to Brazilian clubs’ vaults in the last season.

Figures are still increasing over and over in the industry. Differently from mature markets, such as the American pro leagues and the European football clubs, our industry has faced its great development in the last decade. Moving from an obsolete management system to an increasingly professional model even led Brazilian clubs to appear in the Deloitte Football Money League report, the ranking which stipulates the richest clubs in the world, for the first time. According to this study, SC Corinthians are the 24th richest club on the planet, earning €113.3 million in 2013.

This combination of a growing professionalism amongst football clubs and the emergence of new commercial opportunities, brought largely by the new arenas, has aroused great interest from Brazilian blue chips. Ambev, the biggest Brazilian brewery and part of ABInBev, saw in football a platform to enhance sales and improve the relationship with consumers. In early 2013, the company created a discount programme called Movimento por um Futebol Melhor. This initiative intended to benefit clubs’ members, giving discounts on a great range of products sold in national grocery store chains, which were other partners of the project. Thus, members could pay back their club in monthly payments with these discounts obtained in the checkout bills. After one year, Ambev helped clubs leveraging more than R$100 million (US$42.1 million), bringing circa 600,000 new fans to their membership schemes. More than R$25 million (US$10.5 million) in discounts were given to members of the programme in one year.

The current scenario of our industry highlights the importance of hosting two mega-events in a short timeframe of two years. The need for more modern venues created a better infrastructure to host more demanding consumers and sponsors. Along with this trend, new commercial opportunities emerged as new properties were created. This picture, combined with an increased professional management amongst football clubs, encouraged giant companies to associate their brands within this market. However, there is still a great field to explore in this young market. In contrast to the browning leaves on the treetops in Winnersh, the Brazilian football industry, currently, looks much more like a virgin Amazon rainforest. This is the time to invest.

Fabio Ritter is the commercial manager at Brazilian soccer club Grêmio FBPA. The Liverpool University Football Industries MBA graduate manages the Porto Alegre club’s sponsorship scheme and runs special licensing projects.

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