28 April 2022 - 2:54 PM
Gloria Football acquires title sponsorship rights for Spain’s first pro women’s football league: Investment is “purely business-driven”
- Victoire Cogevina, founder and CEO of Gloria Football, has pledged €10 million to Spain’s new women’s football league.
- Part of the goal is to create marketing solely for women—to this point that’s been virtually unheard of in the football landscape.
- Why it matters: The women’s game has the opportunity for high growth potential, building in new ways—like focusing on Web 3.0.
- The perspective: Gender equality is at the heart of the investment to the new league—and what Gloria is grounded in.
More good news follows Spain’s official mandate to launch the country’s first professional women’s football league in March—a €10 million pledge by Gloria Football to acquire the title sponsorship rights for three-years.
The figure represents a significant increase from the €1.2 million that electric utility multinational company Iberdrola paid to sponsor the league in 2016 on a seven-year contract.
Victoire Cogevina, founder and CEO of the Silicon Valley startup, is betting big on the league - and the growth of women’s football overall.
Gloria is a social media app designed to build a community around the sport. It is one part scouting app. Gender-inclusive, Gloria is still in beta and is set to launch later this year in advance of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The investment is “purely business-driven"
The decision to invest is purely business-driven, she says.
“I'm a big believer that this asset, which is women's football, is at the very beginning of its growth,” says Cogevina.
“I'm pretty sure that in a couple of years from now, there is a big chance that Spain will become the leading women’s league in Europe—if not the world—and that €10 million will seem like a very small price.”
That Spanish women’s football reached a milestone recently in attendance is not lost on the entrepreneur. Cogevina sat in the stands at the FC Barcelona game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals that took place at Camp Nou Stadium on 30 March with Barca prevailing 5-2.
The match drew a world record setting crowd of 91,553 fans. It took 23 years for the record to be broken. The 1999 Women’s World Cup final at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California had the former all-time high of 90,185.
Nor is it lost on her that Gloria is a woman’s name that will be imprinted on the league, at least for three years. The origins of the app’s name, Cogevina explains, derives from 'La gloria de fútbol' which translates to ‘The glory of soccer’—a phrase she has heard all her life.
Born in the U.S., Cogevina is half Greek and half Argentinian—her father was a Greek ambassador. Her mother is a former wealth manager turned sports agent.
In 2015, mother and daughter founded SR All Stars, a Miami-based soccer agency representing elite Latin American professional players who play for Major League Soccer. It’s reputed to be the first soccer agency globally founded and run by women. Cogevina’s mother continues to helm the agency today.
During her childhood years, Cogevina lived in 11 cities across Europe and Latin America.
“As a Latin fan you hear this phrase every time a tournament starts,” she explains. “Whenever there's a big match, teams and players are looking for glory—that’s the ultimate vision and goal. And so I thought that was really the best name we could give the app.”
For Spanish women’s football, the name is indeed well-placed—and well-timed.
Cogevina’s investment remains as a pledge at the moment. The full investment is contingent upon the successful candidacy of Maria Teixidor and Reyes Bellver to preside over the new women’s league.
Teixidor is a former FC Barcelona executive and Bellver is a sports lawyer and FIFA advisor.
Team Teixidor and Bellver, who call their campaign for presidency and vice presidency ‘Time Is Now: Commitment and Ambition’, contacted Cogevina with a proposal for Gloria’s participation.
From her perspective, Cogevina understood that Gloria was well equipped to not only be a sponsor, but a great partner.
“Beyond working with the biggest clubs in that specific league, like Barcelona and Real Madrid, we can also help much smaller clubs to build their own fan base, engage them online and give them a digital space to do so,” she says.
Viewing women's football as a startup
The alignment, Cogevina adds, arises from several different standpoints. Perhaps the biggest is how she views women’s football as a startup on its own. Men’s football, she says, is an IPO--a public company. But for the women’s game, taking the startup analogy, Cogevina sees its benefits as moving much faster, with greater opportunity for growth and investment potential.
Alamy | UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals at Camp Nou drew a world record crowd.
“At the same time, there’s a hundred things very ‘in the face’ everyday, and you don’t know if you’re going to survive them,” says Cogevina. “I guess Gloria—being a startup—always had this personality, this nimbleness.”
Shortly after Teixidor and Bellver announced their candidacy, they reached out to her to discuss their plans. The initial request was for an endorsement. Cogevina pointed to the politicized nature of their candidacy, which as a businesswoman working in tech in the U.S., she didn’t feel she could be of much assistance in that regard.
But, still wanting to help, conversations ensued which led to introductions to some of Cogevina’s investors. One of them was Muse Capital with co-founder Assia Grazioli-Venier, which committed EUR40 million to their campaign.
As the women continued to stay in close contact, Cogevina realized there was a great opportunity in naming rights.
In arriving at the EUR10 million figure, Cogevina says she referenced the Barclays FA Women’s Super League broadcasting deal announced in 2021. This deal sees the BBC and Sky Television invest up to £24 million over three seasons.
As broadcasting deals are much larger, she used that as the benchmark. Still, predecessor Iberdrola was €8.8 million less on its seven-year contract.
The commitment says: “We see value”
So what does Gloria Football’s commitment say to the industry?
Cogevina puts it simply as: “It says that we see value.”
Women’s football has reached an inflection point, growing steadily, she notes.
"Right now, the speed is something we haven’t seen before—I haven’t seen growth like this anywhere during my career or in any industry, really—it’s pretty exciting,” says Cogevina.
She adds that while no one can predict the future, to her that a €10 million euro price tag will not be out of the norm in the near term.
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The return on investment will come in part from brand awareness. The name internationally will be known as Gloria Football League. Of the women’s game in Spain, Cogevina says it has some of the best women’s teams in the world, like Barcelona. The name association is already worth a great deal more, she emphasizes.
But, it’s also driven by access to all of the league’s 16 clubs to integrate with each one as much as the scope allows for this to happen. Cogevina underscores the importance of being much more of a sponsor in helping teams develop their own fan bases.
She points to how the men’s game has never been marketed with women in mind.
“It's always been very masculine in brands—the wording, the whole experience, she says. “And unfortunately, I'd say in the last few years, women's football has kind of inherited that baggage from the men’s side.”
One of the ways that Gloria will also see its ROI is through working at the club and league levels to change that “and really work in building a product that is finally for women,” says Cogevina.
Building the game different from the men’s
She believes the women’s game should not be built in the same way as the men's. One of the great benefits of growing a startup, and in this case an entire industry, is to be thinking in terms of Web 3.0 from a technology and fan engagement standpoint right at the beginning.
“If you build a company knowing that the metaverse is the future, that is very different from trying to adapt a sport to the more traditional ways of doing business,” she says.
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Web 3.0 opens up, pretty much immediately, conversations on how to leverage technology to connect fans—and to leverage their own community-building efforts, she says.
Further on digital, Cogevina points to the deal DAZN and YouTube struck with the UEFA Women’s Champions League last year. In a four-year global broadcasting partnership, women’s football gains significant exposure.
For the first two seasons, beginning in 2021/2022, fans can access 61 matches from the group stage and onwards live and on-demand, at no cost, on DAZN’s YouTube channel. For the last two seasons (through 2025), all 61 matches will be streamed live on DAZN and 19 matches will be free to watch on the same YouTube channel.
“It is an incredible move on behalf of the brand,” she says, adding: “Because one of the biggest problems women’s football has had historically has been visibility…now we’re seeing a completely new and different business model that’s still working [taking into account the traditional TV rights model].”
Building a community in the digital realm is a big draw for Gloria’s investors.
“I think investors love the fact that we were going for a vertical community—one that arguably has the largest audience in the world,” says Cogevina.
Right now, no brand or product that holds the world of football offering a single place to experience football exists in this realm, she furthers.
Gloria counts 17 investors. Among them are (in addition to Muse Capital): internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, Peter Tomozawa, president of business operations for the MLS franchise Seattle Sounders and Razmig Hovaghimian, Rakuten board of directors and owner of Washington Spirit.
While in beta, the app has been downloaded in 103 countries and on Instagram has already amassed over 350,000 followers—a clear indicator that the reach is going to be large.
“This is a voice that is global,” says Cogevina.
A vehicle for gender equality
Of the sport, she says it’s likely the best vehicle in the world for many different things because of its reach and global appeal. That includes a vehicle for gender equality. Cogevina serves as an ambassador on gender equality for soccer to the United Nations, which has set a clear goal to achieve this, working towards a 2030 deadline.
“I think that this has been a sport that has been reserved for men for many, many, years,” says Cogevina. “And if there's gender equality in this specific sector, that means that the rest of the world is catching up.”
She highlights her experience the day after the news hit that Gloria was making its pledge to the Spanish Women’s Football League.
“I got calls from every major brand, every major club, all congratulating me,” she recalls. “And they asked me how they could get involved. You can see it happening already.”