LaLiga to raise the (bar) with sports bars


LaLiga new hospitality division Image: LaLiga

The men’s top professional football division of the Spanish football league system – LaLiga – has set in motion a new chain of licensed sports bars around the globe to buttress its international expansion.

The league has spent the last 14 months developing the concept and brand guidelines for the new hospitality venues with a view to franchising them to specialist hospitality operators.

The entire concept has been named the ‘LaLiga Twentynine’s’ bars as the league was formed in the year 1929 and will blend culinary, entertainment and other sports “in a unique and interactive environment”.

Speaking at an event to float the sport bar concept, Óscar Mayo, Business, Marketing and International Development Director at LaLiga, said the league plans to open 30 such venues over the next seven years.

The league has already inked on a pact with Barceló Hotel Group, a Spanish hotel chain with more than 252 hotels in 22 countries, granting it exclusive rights to ‘LaLiga Twentynine’s’ licenses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and hinted that the first venues would open in 2021. Media reports stated that the league struck the deal through its Global Licensing Department and did not work with an external licensing agency.

Mayo said the hospitality concept has been so created so that it is flexible and has been conceived with airports, city centers, hotels and street level locations in mind – ‘LaLiga TwentyNine’s’ will mark a before and after in the world of entertainment. We are combining leisure, sports and gastronomy to offer people something they have not seen before. The key will be the unique experiences that will be on offer in this reimagined sports bar.”

He added, ‘LaLiga TwentyNine’s’ will be spaces that can be found at street level, in shopping malls, airports, within establishments such as hotels, cruise ships or amusement parks. The first of these spaces is expected to open in Barcelona at the start of next year and after this, inside the PortAventura World amusement park in Tarragona, Spain.”

The sports bar concept will also allow sports fans to experience a full range of sporting events in a unique and experiential way.

As part of ‘LaLiga Twentynine’s, there will also be a multipurpose stand that recreates the stands found in LaLiga stadia, providing spectators with the sensation of being inside the ground itself, surrounded by other fans experiencing the emotion of live sport.

Visitors will be able to watch LaLiga matches and other major sporting events from international and local competitions, such as tennis, basketball, or baseball. Special events will also be arranged with LaLiga Santander ambassadors or clinics with coaches from LaLiga clubs.

Through this project, LaLiga will deepen fan engagement inside and outside of Spain, while expanding the international image of the competition as well as the LaLiga brand, going beyond football: It’s not football, it’s LaLiga.

Common thread

A common thread which will bind the sports bars is – changing room tunnel-themed entrances, an interactive Beat Center where fans can take a walk down La Liga history and take partake of in interactive quizzes and a multipurpose space designed to look like a stadium stand.

Some sites will also feature an area devoted to esports from LaLiga sponsor EA Sports and a gastronomic ‘B-eat Experience’ area wherein supporters can get to savor gourmet food and 360-degree projections.

La Liga sponsor Santander will provide interactive quizzes in the Beat Center while the league’s drinks sponsor Budweiser will feature in a branded bar area. The league indicated the brands had not paid any additional fees for the increased visibility and that this was being treated as an ‘added bonus’ for them at this stage.

Said Mayo, “We wanted to do something like this really well. We didn’t want to say ‘this is our brand guidebook, do what you want’. We’ve been working on this for a long time, so [this is] the added value we are giving to the people who want to have a Twentynine sports bar – the franchisees.”

Mayo added, “The most important thing is that it works, and the customers enjoy the food and drink being offered there.”

Global audience

To bring the project to a global audience, LaLiga has signed an agreement with Barceló Hotel Group, a Spanish hotel chain with more than 252 hotels in 22 countries, which grants it exclusive rights to LaLiga TwentyNine’s licenses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Sara Ramis, Chief Marketing Officer, Barceló Hotel Group, said it had signed the exclusive licensing rights for the MENA region because it was of strategic importance to the company. She threw enough hint that the first themed sports bars could open in Morocco or Dubai “very soon”.

Ramis added, “From Barceló Hotel Group, we continue to bet on experiential innovation, creating unique and differentiated experiences in our hotels.

LaLiga Twentynine’s’ is an innovative concept that unites us with a prestigious brand in LaLiga to develop this new concept of sports bar in which our clients will enjoy surprising experiences linked to sports.”

Mayo added that the league also wants to open bars in North and Central America, in Russia and across Europe, stressing that international projects are “more important than local projects”, to act as a catalyst in its expansion and promote its individual clubs.

He added, “LaLiga is really working on getting closer to its fans and to increase the excitement during the 90-minute matches. Beyond being just a weekend, we wanted them [the fans] to have other experiences and we wanted to have other points of contact with our fans during the week and other times – and also in a very different way.”

Mayo explained, “This ambitious project represents LaLiga’s commitment to innovation in its international development and the creation of new business lines that add value to our clubs. We are doing this hand in hand with strategic partners that have deep experience in the hospitality or restaurant sector to help take the concept of a traditional sports bar much further through unique user experiences.”

LaLiga has confirmed that a themed restaurant will feature at the PortAventura World theme park in Salou and Vila-seca, Tarragona, on the Costa Daurada in Catalonia, Spain.

Recently, the league announced a joint venture with the theme park operator comprising three phases:

  • The first, composed of an investment of €10m ($11.7m/£9.1m), covers digital experiences, including the development of a new virtual game, and the creation of a themed restaurant within the resort that will be ready during the 2021-22 football seasons.
  • The second phase will incorporate the design and development of a new LaLiga-themed attraction and an investment of €40m. In the final phase, there are plans to create a LaLiga theme park within the PortAventura World resort with €100m being injected further.

At the same time, the joint venture will sign a licensing agreement with PortAventura World for the use of the LaLiga brand and app development. This licensing agreement will run for 15 years and give PortAventura World exclusive rights in Europe.

The concept of ‘LaLiga TwentyNine’s’ was born as a multidisciplinary space that is adaptable to the specific characteristics of each territory or to the needs of the licensees. That said, ‘LaLiga TwentyNine’s’ will always have the same look and feel, validated by the league.

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