Italy’s Serie D Club Campobasso Teams Up With New York-Based Platform Italian Football TV
~ Original article here!
BROOKLYN, NY - DEC. 10: Campobasso's new owner, Matt Rizzetta (third from the left), in the IFTV ... [+]
S.S. Campobasso, a soccer club that plays in Italy’s Serie D, has reached an exclusive partnership agreement with Italian Football TV, an online video channel and social media content service that enjoys wide popularity among the North American fans of Italian soccer.
The main architect of the deal is Matt Rizzetta, the 38-year-old chairman of North Sixth Group LLC, a family office holding company located in the SoHo neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. Rizzetta, who in December acquired an ownership stake in Campobasso, led the club’s negotiations with IFTV founders Marco Messina and Michael Kantaris.
The Campobasso-IFTV partnership is yet another indicator of Italian soccer’s growing desire to expand its brand globally.
In November, Serie A agreed to sell 10% of its newly formed media company to a consortium of companies led by the Luxembourg-based private equity firm CVC Capital partners, with the goal of increasing its presence in foreign markets. Serie B, the second tier of Italian soccer, is now working to mirror Serie A’s strategy, according to an article by the business newspaper MF Milano Finanza.
Lega Pro, Serie C’s governing body, announced on December 17 that it would start to broadcast league games in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Argentina and Australia on its Serie C TV Channel. Lega Pro’s president, Francesco Ghirelli, explained that this is part of the league’s plan to “bring its brand into a new market that has not yet been explored.”
Campobasso, which is located between Rome and Naples in the tiny region of Molise, becomes the first Serie D club to establish a content distribution agreement with a North American platform. Rizzetta strongly believes in expanding the Campobasso brand outside Italy’s boundaries.
“The market for expansion for soccer clubs is international,” Rizzetta told me in late December. “I think that is something on which the Italian league has historically lagged behind. Now, it’s starting to catch up and realize that the addressable market is international.”
He notes that some of the world’s most valuable soccer clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, have been able to raise their valuations into the billions while having only a tiny fraction of their fan base reside in the country in which they play.
“The Italian market creates the greatest opportunity because it still is untapped in many respects in ways that other (soccer) leagues are,” Rizzetta said.
The Campobasso-IFTV Deal
“It’s a two-and-a-half-year deal,” Rizzetta says. “It includes $500,000 of value.”
The $500,000 amount is split between cash and club assets that IFTV will acquire, such as serving as Campobasso’s front-jersey sponsor for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.
Rizzetta stresses innovation as the key element in Campobasso’s outreach efforts. He believes that IFTV, which registers more than 50 million monthly impressions across its online platforms, is the perfect media partner in that it has the right influence and experience to deliver Campobasso content to the English-speaking community.
“We’re investing half a million dollars for a Serie D club. That represents a significant percent of our operating budget, so that’s a big commitment; it’s a big investment,” Rizzetta says. “But it’s also us showing our fan base and our prospected fan base that we’re comfortable trying to innovate and do things that other clubs haven’t yet done. I think that is what this partnership (with IFTV) represents.”
Rizzetta also believes IFTV will immediately have a positive impact on Campobasso’s finances.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is restricting or eliminating some of the club’s revenue streams, like match-day ticketing, the IFTV partnership is expected to bring financial benefits to Campobasso by increasing merchandise sales and attracting new sponsors.
“We did forecasting, and we expect the relationship to be profitable certainly after the first year,” Rizzetta says. “It (IFTV) is also a profit center for the club.”
Rizzetta’s Vision Of A Global Brand
When Rizzetta started his business in 2009, he remembers, he had no connections and was living with a pregnant wife and struggling to navigate the rough waters of the post-recession era. Today, his public relations and marketing firm, North 6th Agency Inc., is one of the 50 most powerful public relations firms in America, according to the British newspaper Observer.
“People laughed at me. Then, ten or 11 years later, we built a business that turned into one of the largest businesses in this industry,” Rizzetta says. “And I view Campobasso as no different.”
When he made the decision to invest in an Italian soccer club, Rizzetta chose Campobasso over other clubs competing in higher divisions for reasons that range from the club’s ambitious goals and professionalism to the region’s unique culture, tradition and strategic location. In his mind, Campobasso has all the core elements to become a global brand.
Rizzetta wants Campobasso to represent not only the molisani (Molise natives) but all people who identify with the struggle of a club that, after overcoming strong adversity like four bankruptcies in the last 35 years, is now ready to build a better future—one that, ideally, takes them from Serie D all the way up to the grand stage of Serie A.
“We want the club to represent the underdogs, the immigrants and the expats,” Rizzetta says, mentioning sacrifice, hard work and passion as Campobasso’s core values. “We really don’t care where you come from. If you can resonate with those values and that story, we want you as a fan.”
IFTV cofounder Marco Messina says that IFTV will explore all layers of Campobasso’s story while facilitating the global audience’s interaction with the content they produce.
“The important thing for us is building up story lines. It’s more so about how we’re going to get our fans engaged and involved in it,” Messina says. “Being able to tell that story from the ground up and making Campobasso that relatable is the thing that will separate Campobasso from any other team that there is in the lower divisions.”
Besides streaming Campobasso’s league matches, the IFTV channel will feature original content, such as live in-studio shows, interviews with players and staff members, and behind-the-scenes footage. Campobasso’s docuseries, Underdogs, is expected to begin airing in the spring on IFTV.
A Rising Trend In Italian Soccer
Under Rizzetta, Campobasso has joined the short, but rapidly growing, list of Italian soccer clubs with full or partial North American ownership.
Currently, the Serie A clubs with American ownership are Roma (the Friedkin Group), Fiorentina (Rocco Commisso), Parma (Kyle Krause) and AC Milan (Elliott Management Corporation); Bologna, meanwhile, has Canadian ownership (Saputo Inc.).
Lega Serie A, the governing body of Italy’s top flight for soccer, hopes that the newly created media company will allow the Serie A brand to reach wider audiences around the world. As the Campobasso experience tells us, all layers of Italian soccer have started to explore ways in which they can grow their presence in foreign markets, with North America gradually becoming one of the most appealing destinations.
Rizzetta is not surprised about this trend. He believes that unlike other top-European soccer leagues, whose markets have in many ways become saturated, Italy has one of the largest potentials for growth in the years to come.
“As advanced as the Italian game is right now,” Rizzetta says, “I still think there is incredible, untapped opportunity.”