Senior Business Analyst, Advoost
Associate Strategic Real Estate Advisory, Savills Aguirre Newman
Looking back: how Barcelona became an international benchmark for sport
It’s well known that Barcelona is famous for sport around the world. But how did that come about?
The city’s entrance on the international stage was perhaps the Universal Expo of 1888. The city staged various events, exhibitions and sports tournaments over eight months, attracting almost 2.3 million people to a city that was home to only 450,000 inhabitants at the time. Several areas of the city were rehabilitated and the architectural style known as modernisme, a Catalan variant of Art Nouveau, was seen for the first time. It was at this event that Barcelona first demonstrated that it was able to organize major events.
The 1929 International Exposition and, it goes without saying, the 1992 Olympic Games, boosted Barcelona’s urban development. Olympic facilities were built on Montjuïc; other major infrastructures were constructed around the city; and the Olympic Village and Marina helped open up the city to the Mediterranean. Barcelona also took advantage of the opportunity of the Olympics to create the structures that would make it possible to develop a sports industry in the city and position itself as a benchmark for sport in Europe and around the world.
Barcelona loves sport and sport loves Barcelona
The work undertaken by Barcelona to place the city at the heart of world sport has paid off. In the words of Joan Josep Pallàs, sports editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia, “Barcelona is the city with the highest number of people doing sport in Europe, and the third in the world, behind Boston and San Diego. Sport in Catalonia generates 1.2% of the GDP and almost 100,000 jobs”.
Barcelona is home to a variety of sports institutions such as the EuroLeague Basketball. Roser Queraltó, Chief Business Officer of the EuroLeague remarks that“we chose Barcelona as the headquarters for the EuroLeague due to the professionalism of those working in sports in the city, the quality of its infrastructure, and Barcelona’s appeal for international sporting events”.”.
Nike is also a clear example of the city’s success in attracting sports’ companies. Pau Galindo, EMEA Consumer Strategy Director at Nike, says that “Nike's global strategy is to get close to the consumer and that is why we chose twelve locations around the world in order to get a better understanding of the day-to-day needs of people who do sport. We selected Barcelona as the headquarters for Southern Europe because we consider it to be a global heart of sport, a city in which 75% of the population does a sport regularly, the highest percentage in Europe".
Hosting high quality sporting events is currently very challenging due to fierce competition from other cities in Spain and further afield, but we must not forget that Barcelona and Catalonia continue to have enormous appeal. Events staged here include the Conde de Godó tennis trophy, the final of the world show jumping competition at the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona, Formula 1 and Moto-GP events at volta de Catalunyathe Circuit de Catalunya, and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Barcelona, of course, is also home to the city's main sporting asset: FC Barcelona.
The mix of companies and events that are committed to Barcelona is a great starting point for improving the positioning of the city. The ecosystem we have described proves that sport is an integral part of its history and character. It has taken considerable effort to build up and its value is incalculable; its deep origins make it one of Barcelona's main assets.
The future is a marathon!
Barcelona is well-positioned in the European and global sports industry, but there are numerous challenges it must face in the coming years if it is to remain a leading city for sport and create a sports sector that is responsive to the latest trends and is sustainable in the long term:
- Recent polls show that the younger generation is losing interest in sport. One of the objectives must be to use technology to attract young people. In the words of Pau Galindo,"“Barcelona must be a breeding ground of champions”or, as Emilio Zegrí, president of the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona Foundation , puts it, “sport needs to be promoted in schools”.
- We must provide Barcelona with the resources that will help it to "“get the most out of the city's main drivers of sport.”Enric Jové, CEO of McCann Worldgroup Barcelona explains,“the Godó should become an ATP Master 1000 and we should encourage EuroLeagues in other sports to make the city their headquarters. The benefits will follow.”
- Roser Queraltó from the EuroLeague Basketball suggests “promoting links amongst sports companies”“promoting links amongst sports companies” in order to help professionalize the whole sector and enable it to make progress.”
- One of the key challenges facing the sports industry in Barcelona is attracting top level managerial talent, both at institutional and private level.
Barcelona is on the right track. Proof of this is the creation of the Barcelona Sports Tech Hub, which will seek to connect the innovation ecosystem with the sports sector and provide funding and investment for sports and technological talent.
Barcelona’s challenge is to continue to be a world benchmark for sport for decades to come. And, as Enric Jové tells us, we must “never forget that talent can’t be mass-produced.”