FC Barcelona Offers Strategic Insights to MBA Class at Harvard
An MBA class at Harvard Business School (HBS) was told of FC Barcelona’s plans to achieve annual turnover of €1,000 million (c. US$1,122m) by 2021 through its desire to become the “most admired, cherished and global club in the world.”
Those were the words of FC Barcelona’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who addressed HBS students via video linkup from the Camp Nou this week. It’s the second year running that Bartomeu has offered an MBA class his insights into the success of the soccer (football) club he presides over, with his lecture’s focus strongly placed on the club’s growth and strategy in international markets.
What can MBAs learn from FC Barcelona?
Lessons that FC Barcelona (commonly referred to simply as Barça) can offer emerging business leaders were outlined in a Harvard Business Review article last year, coauthored by Luciana Silvestri, a doctoral student at HBS who has also acted as a teaching fellow in an MBA class at the school on the subject of managing innovation. The article concluded that, “like Barça, corporations can benefit from creating stronger identities. In hyper-competitive markets, instead of focusing on what they’re good at, most companies tend to react to rivals’ strategies. A clearer definition of ‘who we are’ that speaks to what is core, distinctive, and enduring about the organization acts as a powerful tool for strategic adaptation.” Central to what Barça is, of course, is La Masía, the club’s renowned youth academy, through which the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández, and Andrés Iniesta honed their development as players and ambassadors of the club’s footballing ethos.
Insights on offer from Bartomeu’s video lecture, meanwhile, stem from FC Barcelona’s use as an example of business success in the ‘Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries’ course taught by HBS’s Anita Elberse, who has also been behind cases featuring other big names in the worlds of entertainment and sport, such as such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Students want to know how we did it,” says Bartomeu of HBS lecture
FC Barcelona recently posted revenue of €679 million (c. US$773m) for the 2015/16 season and Bartomeu told the MBA class that its ambitions to take this to the 1,000 million-mark rests largely on its continued progress in global markets. He then informed students that there are five central platforms to the club’s strategy in this regard: Sporting excellence; social commitment and impact; Espai Barça (a project designed to provide the club with the best sporting complex in the world); global recognition; and financial sustainability.
As part of its plans to develop its presence on the international stage, FC Barcelona opened new corporate premises in New York earlier this month. When added to its existing office in Hong Kong and, of course, its base in Spain, this latest move is designed to ensure that it is, “operative all around the planet for 24 hours a day.” At the New York launch, Bartomeu also spoke of interest in creating a women’s soccer team in the US to boost the club’s profile in North America.
“I feel proud that our club has drawn the interest of Harvard Business School. But it isn’t a total surprise,” Bartomeu said after the lecture, adding, “we are very well known in the United States but students want to know how we did it, and how we will continue. We have to share our knowledge and teach them how we do it, and that will oblige us to continue reviewing our protocols and what we do, and to do it better.”