AC Milan wants to play in the big leagues
With a new Italian championship title and a new owner, the Milanese club is making exceptional progress. Milan AC is now aiming for the marketing strategies already adopted by the biggest clubs, such as Paris Saint-Germain, and more.
By Aymeric Mantoux16 juin 2022
At the club, we have worked hard to improve the emotional relation with new and next fan generations, through innovative initiatives and by exploring new territories
Pier Donato Vercellone, Chief Communications Officer at AC Milan
Released on May 24th, the Brand Finance report assesses each year the brand value of the world’s biggest football clubs. With no surprise, in the 11th position is the Juventus football club (4th behind PSG), Inter Milan is 14th, and AC Milan, 3rd club, sits at the 17th position. The surprise, however, is that its value’s strong growth has had it climb 12 rows vs the previous year with the same ranking. On the field, as well as out of it, AC Milan is the football brand which has most improved worldwide.
And according to the Football Benchmark, AC Milan is the club whose business value has most increased in a year among 30 clubs that were analyzed. “We are lucky to be one of the most recognized and admired football clubs in the world, explains the communications director of AC Milan, Pier Donato Vercellone, change-maker of the red and black club’s reputation. AC Milan is a glorious club, with a heritage and patrimony that are strong and undisputed, which has developed a strong modernization and digitalization process. At the club, we have worked hard to improve the emotional relation with new and next fan generations, through innovative initiatives and by exploring new territories, not only in the sports sector, to enhance curiosity, interest and engagement.” It is therefore not surprising that the club, which had already changed hands in 2017 and 2018, spiked the interest of the American capital venture Redbird Cardinale which just bought 70% of it for 1.3 billion euros.
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The capital venture Redbird invests in a winning sports strategy
Over the last years, Silvio Berlusconi’s former protégé went through everything: great victories and stars, then in the 2010s, financial turmoil and low rankings. It has known a true downfall of over eleven years with no trophies (the last one dated from 2011) before managing an incredible comeback with a champion of Italy title this season. “The American venture capital Elliott buying back the club in 2018 was a turning point” explains Pier Donato Vercellone. At his side, Casper Stylsvig, Chief Revenue Officer who has drastically improved the brand’s attractiveness by heading the commercial department, with operations under the CEO Ivan Gazidis. “First, we had to recreate a team, regenerated by the arrival of young talent. In less than two seasons, the sports strategy was successful: AC Milan ended up second in the championship and qualified for the Champions League, something unique after being absent for 7 seasons. On the financial level, its losses have decreased since 2021, and its revenue has increased by over 100 million dollars (including 75 million of TV rights and an additional 17 million in sponsoring and advertising).
From a commercial perspective, AC Milan has never ceased to be an attractive brand despite a few tough years on the field. The last two years are proof, with surprising collaborations and new partnerships that were announced.
Betting on online gaming platforms and franchises
In 2022, for the second consecutive year, AC Milan is the most appreciated Italian football club in Italy, the US and China, according to a study led by the international market research company YouGov. AC Milan is one of the most recognized brands in the football world with over 500 million fans worldwide. The club is second in Italy according to number of likes on social media. It is present on Twitch and on the main Chinese platforms, including Weibo and kuaishou on which it has managed to achieve significant growth in 2020 during the pandemic. No less than 28 new partnerships were signed over the past two years, which is a tribute to the value increase of the brand and its premium repositioning. Its roadmap borrowed from American sports franchises or from the Paris Saint-Germain’s strategy make AC Milan a leisure brand, a lifestyle which goes way beyond football. Indeed, partnerships with Apple Music and Tidal have enabled to launch playlists created by club players themselves. AC Milan is also associated to Epic Games as to bring football into the successful video game Fortnite and has launched an esports team. In 2020, it initiated a unique partnership with an entertainment company, Roc Nation, to create livestreams and event shows. “The latter strategically aligns AC Milan with one of the most innovative global brands in the entertainment world and enables it to express itself further beyond football fields, offering AC Milan to be discovered by new audiences beyond football, to bring it to another level”, analyzes the communications director. In May 2020, the live streaming event “From Milan with Love” recorded over 50 countries connected, 2.5 million views total, including 2 million on the official channels of AC Milan.
Betting on Milan’s fashion aura
The challenge is being capable of maintaining a stable and constant emotional link with our fans despite results on the field
Pier Donato Vercellone, communications director of Milan AC
To establish its development, the club decided to bet on its city’s values, recognized as one of the world’s main fashion capitals and exploring opportunities beyond its comfort zone. “The challenge is being capable of maintaining a stable and constant emotional link with our fans despite results on the field, ensures Vercellone. We must be capable to infuse our brand’s values at any given time. Of course, winning is fundamental, but it is not the only important thing. Our brand has institutional value, with a unique strength.” AC Milan has reinforced its collaborations with brands that operate in the fashion sector: ETRO, Paper Planes, Harmont and Blaine. It has launched a capsule collection of recycled unused football jerseys with the French brand Koché (after PSG), entirely reworking them into limited editions. Just like the Parisian club, AC Milan has presented its streetwear collection in March 2022 during the Paris Fashion Week. More recently, the rossonero club launched is very first jersey in collaboration with a fashion brand, Nemen, a first before. It is only the beginning, according to Casper Stylsvig: “We have a clear global strategic vision and a strong innovation will to continue to develop the full potential of the AC Milan brand worldwide, by supporting our fans’ engagement and by generating new value opportunities for our partners. For example, with BitMEX, we launched a "Born to Lead NFT Collection", a series of unique digital artworks celebrating some of the most epic and iconic moments of mankind.”
All of these collaborations show to which point the AC Milan brand can be multifaceted
Casper Stylsvig, Chief Revenue Officer of AC Milan
The objective of the club remains to be different to consolidate a global brand, a lifestyle, which resonates well beyond its borders and its sports results. “All of these collaborations show to which point the AC Milan brand can be multifaceted and how it can generate positive impact as well beyond the football world”, concludes Casper Stylsvig.
AC Milan figures
- Over 500 million fans worldwide
- 1 Headquarter in Milan, 1 office in China
- 14 AC Milan Academies worldwide
- 28 new signed partnerships over the last two years
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