Aymeric Magne (Lagardère Unlimited) and his view on the World Cup in Brazil

By September 10, 2014

Lagardère Unlimited, the sports and entertainment group of Lagardère, expanded their activities to Brazil. They were already active in selling media rights in South-America, but they now offer complete services in the domain of sports marketing. Together with their partner BWA they created LUArenas, a joint venture with activities dedicated to stadium and arena operation in Brazil.

Their partnership started with the exploitation of 2 football stadiums: Arena Castelao in Fortaleza (one of the stadiums used for the World Cup 2014) and the Arena Independência in Belo Horizonte (host of one of the major Brazilian Team – Atletico Mineiro). To get an update of activities we arranged an appointment with Aymeric Magne, who is in charge of directing activities in Brazil, and he used to work for ESSMA in a recent history.

First of all, how do you look back on the period you worked with and for ESSMA?

I worked approximately 10 years for ESSMA. I witnessed the development of ESSMA, under the supervision of the former CEO Lionel Dreksler who passed away in 2008 and with the actual one John Beattie. Further on, we expanded ESSMA in France and after the attendance of Dimitri Huygen we increased our activities towards Europe.

As CEO of Lagardère Unlimited Brazil, you are responsible for the company’s set up in Brazil and the development of sports activities. How do you look back on the first months?

The goal is to expand the sports activities of Lagardère Unlimited in our core businesses:

  • marketing
  • sport events
  • talent management
  • biggest focus on the exploitation of stadiums and arenas               

The startup in Brazil was negotiated in 2 years. In April 2014, contracts were signed and this was the start of a very interesting and hectic period. The whole country was in fully preparation of the World Cup, which made it very intense. Normally, our core business in stadium exploitation is day to day, but here we had to focus on one of the biggest events in the world, which is a real specific approach. Even though it was a very intense period, we learned a lot and gained a very interesting experience.

The Arena Castelao hosted 6 World Cup games, how did you perceive these events?

The Arena hosted 355 000 visitors during the events and amongst 200,000 were tourists. The audience was very international: 10% of the visitors were North American, while the US did not play in Fortaleza. This is explained by the location of Fortaleza, a very touristic city 6 hours from Europe and the United States. On top of this, hospitality set down a World Cup record, for the game between Brazil and Mexico, where 16,000 hospitality seats were sold, on a total of 67,000 seats. Besides the high hospitality rate, Brazilian media complimented the organization of the Arena Castelao. The fact given that the Arena Castelao hosted two games of Brazil, it was an extra element in the success of the Arena.

The Arena Castelao was perceived as a very comfortable arena, what are the strong points of this stadium?  

The stadium construction was based on high FIFA standards, which means every actor in the stadium (media, VIP, spectators, Hospitalities, service providers…) has a high level of comfort. Besides this, the arena is well thought out, with a promenade that allows a lot of pre-match animations.

How will the Arena Castelao be used in the future? Will it be used by teams and/or host other events (concerts)?

The stadium is considered to be multi-functional, but the primary focus will be on the two teams playing in the Arena: Ceara Sporting Club and Fortaleza (respectively playing in the second and third division). Besides the fact that Fortaleza plays in the third division, their last game of the season was attended by 60,000 fans. The presence of those 2 teams means 60 to 70 games a year and upon this the Arena hosts several concerts (where Paul McCartney, Elton John and Beyoncé have already sung). The goal is to develop additional events by using the strategic position of Fortaleza (close to the airport and in a big city), where corporate and business events can become successful.

The Independência stadium was renovated in 2010: what kind of technology trends does it contain?

The Independencia stadium was the first stadium of the new generation in Brazil, constructed before the World Cup arena’s. The stadium is compact and smaller than the Arena Castalao, but used efficiently. Similar to the Arena Castelao, this stadium hosts 2 clubs: America and Atlético Mineiro. The latter is one of the most famous South American teams.

2 first league clubs are playing in the Independência stadium: which impact has this on the exploitation of the stadium?  

The presence of 2 clubs guarantee 60 to 70 games each year. This means the stadium is used frequently and besides this, thanks to Atlético Mineiro, the stadium receives a lot of attention from the media. The other team playing in this stadium is called América Futebol Clube.

What are the main differences between stadium management in Europe and Brazil?

First of all, the Brazilian market of Stadium Management is still in the startup-phase. Before the World Cup, Stadium Management was unknown in Brazil. More and more, clubs are getting aware of the importance of stadiums. The case of Brazil is in some ways comparable with Germany 10-15 years ago, low occupancy rates, aggression,.. . Spectators need to be taught how to behave in football stadiums. Since the World Cup, there is a positive evolution in Brazilian football. Secondly, the way of working is totally different in Brazil when compared to Europe. Both are passionate about their job, but in Brazil football is a religion. This meant that we needed to adapt to the way of working with the local habitude.

Are there plans to expand activities of Lagardère in Brazil?  

Yes, we have 4 main goals towards our activities in Brazil:

  • To succeed in the exploitation of the 2 stadiums, Arena Castelao and the Independencia Stadium
  • To contribute to the development of stadium management and eventually contract other stadiums
  • To start up new sport activities: mass events and organizing the marketing of clubs
  • To enter the Latin market with other departments of Lagardère

Did your experiences at ESSMA create some benefits in the exploitation of the Brazilian stadiums?

I consider my experiences at ESSMA as very useful, the activities at ESSMA allowed me to learn about stadium management and the different point of views in European countries. It gave me an international vision on the domain on this matter, in a conceptual way as well as related to the exploitation. ESSMA is a complete platform for information and networking, which enables me to get some very interesting facts and contacts.

ESSMA is a European association, should South America add a similar association to its disposal?

There is a big demand for something similar to ESSMA, since stadium management is still in the introduction phase. In my opinion, there are a lot of possibilities in this region. At this moment, we are making some plans to create an organization similar to ESSMA. Thereby, we would like to collaborate with ESSMA, because Brazil could learn a lot from the European market and Europe could learn some things from Brazil.

If you look back on the last 5-10 years, what changed positively?  

The market is very dynamic, so many things have changed, depending from market to market. Some markets are already pretty mature, like Germany and the United Kingdom, others will need some more time. But now, clubs are well aware of the importance of stadium management, which was is facilitated by ESSMA.

Is there any advice you would give ESSMA for the coming years?   

ESSMA should stay proactive and dynamic, trying to reach new innovative things. Therefore ESSMA could focus on other industries for developing its knowledge. I think we could learn of airlines, how they are managing their clients: from the arrivals at the airport until the landing, clients are guided within a diversified offer (business class, premium, economy) and they use detailed CRM programs.



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