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Pique, El Rey

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When it comes to footballers and businessmen, gone are the days where the players would live hand-to-mouth after their retirement. They have become extremely business savvy, leveraging their humongous earnings during their playing career to set themselves up nicely for retirement life.

Perhaps no other player symbolises that new age of the business-minded footballer more than Gerard Pique.

As the head of Kosmos, not only does he have his own football club FC Andorra, which FootTheBall covered exclusively with inside access, but he also has various other business ventures thriving and potential, with his personality, a political role waiting for him at FC Barcelona too.

However, how would it sound if one were to say that even a role at FC Barcelona wouldn’t be the crown jewel of his empire? Sounds a bit of a reach and an exaggeration, but that’s exactly what Kings League is.

It’s often said that evolution is constantly changing the answer to a problem to make it better but revolution is altering the question being asked altogether. Kings League is Gerard Pique’s revolution.

Here’s a dive into the crown jewel of Pique’s business empire.

What is Kings League?

When there is a race amongst billionaires to snap up football clubs as the live sports economy looks to be the only segment of the market immune to a bubble bursting, Pique got in on the act as well.

He bought FC Andorra, recognising the potential of having a whole country’s representative club. He has seen success with them two, with promotions having them in the second tier now. However, his true ambition came alive with Kings League.

Kings League is a seven-a-side football tournament based in Barcelona pioneered by Pique.

At its heart, Kings League can be summed up as “street football commercialised” but that would be underselling the genius of it all.

As per Joe Pompliano, an expert in sports and business, Pique and his business partners bought an abandoned warehouse in Barcelona in 2022. They held open tryouts to scout for the best talent. So far, so conventional.

Then came the revolution. Club presidents batting for the Super League have long said that a major gripe of theirs with modern football is that the 90-minute game is no longer enough to keep the attention of the newer generation. Enter Kings League, a 40-minute game.

Fan participation has been at the heart of the league from the beginning. Its set of rules was created through a voting process conducted on social media platforms. This led to some truly wonky rules coming into the game.

Rules like “Enigma”, a player wearing a lucha libre mask whose identity is not disclosed, can be used by the team which owns that wild card and became a part of the revolution.

Football purists hated it but Pique and his partners identified the core target demographic for their product and continued to market it to them regardless of outside noise.

Other rules like unlimited substitutions, “secret weapons” like a goal to be worth double for two minutes, exclusion of an opposition player for a set amount of time, and more made for a dynamic game where the level of unpredictability was ramped up to its highest.

Pique had the product, knew his audience, and had the vision. Now came the part about marketing it and actually bringing that product to his intended audience, beyond them as well if possible. That’s where the genius of his mind kicked in.

Embracing the youth

Influencers like iShowSpeed have become a fabric of football culture. It doesn’t matter anymore what a “true fan” or “geographical fan” is. Content creators like him bring another generation of fans to the team they represent.

Pique recognised there was a market to enter here. From there came the idea to pick streamers to partner with for their teams. He wasn’t going to run an MLS-like system where the league owned every team. Nor was he going to let a select few dictate the terms for the league like European football owners.

Their main priority was to get eyeballs at their product, ideally of their desired target audience, and this was the perfect way to do so.

The marketing mantra

When many business organisations think of the revenue as their bottom line and build from that ground upwards, Pique flipped the script. His main focus was on getting high viewership because money would naturally follow in the long term if he had a following to leverage.

The partnership with streamers did half the job, he let social media run rampant for the rest. The champions of the Super League have a tone-deaf weakness in their argument which is that nobody seems to recognise that football piracy is on the rise because it is increasingly becoming unaffordable.

Match going fans are already secondary citizens to broadcast rights and even those are becoming out of control.

Pique disrupt the system by showing every Kings League match for free on all social media platforms. In January 2023, the tournament amassed 238 million views on TikTok and Twitch and the first-ever match was a trailblazer in its own right, drawing 800,000 viewers.

Since then, the viewership has continued to trend upwards. In the second round, viewership peaked at 945,000 viewers which increased to 1.3 million for the third round.

Camp Nou played host to the league’s championship match which got sold out as supporters were willing to fork out anywhere between $10-$65 for the privilege to attend. Pique’s genius had come full circle. From putting his product in front of every eyeball possible at the time for free, he had captured the market he could now leverage to start earning from it.

Future of Kings League

The potential for this is limitless because put simply, there are millions of content creators in the world who have their own army of followers ready to get into any new field their idols go for.

In England, somebody like KSI could become part-owner of a “Kings League UK” and he will immediately bring with himself hundreds of millions of his fans. The same goes for any other country and since the games are only broadcast for now, the exception being the Camp Nou final, the restriction for location is removed completely.

Already, the league has evolved from just a single competition to a Kings Cup as well which, like traditional domestic cup competitions, is an elimination-style tournament. The next generation is being readied with a “Prince Cup”, where small kids come through and can hopefully have a future in the Kings League.

There are already Kings Leagues in Italy, Brazil, Japan, and many more, with the ultimate aim of having a Kings League global World Cup where best teams from each region come up against each other to crown the global winner, sort of like the FIFA World Cup.

Pique has leveraged his contacts in the process, bringing along Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho in his project. Ibrahimovic has become the President of Kings League Italia, while Ronaldinho will be Chairman of one of the teams in the upcoming Brazil version of the tournament.

In short, it can enter a virtuous cycle of expansion driving more revenue driving more expansion and so on.

As said at the beginning, others were changing the answer to the question and thinking about how to squeeze even more profit from football. Pique developed a new game, a new marketing strategy, and is now seeing the fruits of changing the question altogether.

Vatsal Gupta
A die-hard Red Devil, who has straight up not had a good time since 2012. Lives on Korean dramas and books and can often be heard talking about armchair psychological stuff.

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