Rohit Sharma has been named the new brand ambassador for La Liga in India. The 32 year old opening batsman, who, on Wednesday, became the first Indian to score more than 400 sixes in international cricket, is the first non-footballer in the history of the league to be appointed to such a position.
La Liga is the top tier of the Spanish football league system, and is played in by top teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. Since opening an office in India two years ago, they have gradually been expanding their marketing and development initiatives in the country, including a grassroots development programme called LaLiga Football Schools, and an innovative partnership with Facebook that allows Indian audiences to watch all 300 plus of La Liga’s matches for free. They also helped arrange the tour of Girona FC, who became the first top flight Spanish side to visit the country. Ambitious plans to bring an El Clásico to India though have been shelved for the time being.
The appointment of Rohit is the latest step, the batsman being chosen of his profile and popularity in India. He is also a keen football fan, and of La Liga in particular.
La Liga, though, still has some way to go before it can match the appeal of the Premier League in India, which has the advantage of being the second biggest English speaking country in the world after the United States.
In addition, the Premier League has been supporting football development in the country for more than a decade through a number of local football organisations. In 2014, the Premier League signed a mutual cooperation agreement with the ISL (Indian Super League) which committed the EPL to share knowledge, and provide strategic support and ideas aimed at fostering the development of the sport at all levels.
And, earlier this year, they hosted a Football Development week in Mumbai.
In other initiatives, the Premier League skills programme, run in partnership with the British Council since 2007, has trained more than 2,000 local coaches and referees, whilst the League has also been responsible for a number of fan events in Mumbai in 2015 and 2017, and Bengaluru in 2017.
Meanwhile, through the Premier League’s rights holder in India, Star Sports, a number of fan screenings have been arranged, most recently in September for the Chelsea v Liverpool game.