AC Milan’s Chief Revenue Officer Casper Stylsvig has given a revealing interview in which he outlined the club’s approach under Elliott Management and what it will be like heading into the future from a financial point of view.
Stylsvig was appointed chief revenue officer of Italian football giant AC Milan in the spring of 2019 and he has been part of a team under Elliott that have embarked on a mission to change the way the club operate from a commercial point of view.
He joined Milan after holding roles at Fulham FC where he was Chief Revenue Officer, Manchester United where he was Head of Sales and Global Sponsorship and FC Barcelona, where he was Business Development Manager.
Stylsvig will continue under the new owners RedBird, and sports business expert Joe Pompliano interviewed him on his YouTube channel about a number of different issues related to the past, present and future of Milan, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
On Casa Milano: “I think the building was built seven years ago, but we built these structures [the Studios] about a year and a half ago. Here we produce all the media content.”
On what his role in the club entails: “Everything related to the club’s revenue, except the agreements that have to do with the television broadcast and, of course, the sale of the players. So, marketing, digital ticketing, hospitality, sponsors, retail and e-commerce.”
On how to split the revenues: “Broadcast deals are the biggest revenue for a club. Within the commercial space we see a huge growth in partnerships, especially in the last three to four years. This year we have had 100 seats reserved at the stadium, so this is becoming important too. And then lately we have been focusing on retail and e-commerce. This is an area where we have tripled our revenues: we see a huge interest in Milan from this point of view.”
On international markets: “We are one of the biggest clubs in Italy and the growth we are seeing is beyond its borders. There is a great interest in the club, in the brand. We are the most followed Italian team in the United States and the third, internationally, in China.
“Here there is a great economy for football, especially in America (United States, Canada and Mexico), the venue of the next World Cup. Here we can become more relevant, not only on social media.
“How do we do it? Obviously winning: it is not the cure for everything, but it is very important. After winning the Scudetto we have seen a great growth of interest internationally. If we want to become a top five club we have to grow internationally, and not only in Italy.
“Also at the stadium level: once built, we need to find other revenues to grow and for this we believe that the international market is important.”
On engaging global fans: “If you combine some sort of entertainment with music and sports, you get another kind of audience. And that’s why we’ve made different moves than other clubs in the last four years.
“What we’ve done, for example, during the pandemic (digital concert with RocNation), with some great artists performing from their living room, it’s an interesting concept. So you can attract, as mentioned before, a different audience. It is important to stand out from other clubs.”
On whether AC Milan are a football team or an entertainment company: “It depends who you ask (laughs). This is a tricky question. First of all, the product is football, but I think we also have to consider ourselves an entertainment company. We have to make sure that when sports performance doesn’t follow plan, people have to keep entertaining themselves. As I always say to the team: we don’t control the product in the field, but what is out there.”
On changes of ownership: “We are talking about a brand that has been in decline for a decade, on and off the pitch. Revenues in 2003 were on the same level as Real Madrid, but over the next 15 years we have fallen behind. The next phase with RedBird will be to grow: we have to invest in more projects, but we will have the same approach we had with Elliott.”
On European football: “We will not buy superstars, but we will create them, they will be more proud to be part of this adventure. We are very proud of what we are doing. We have the youngest team in Serie A and one of the youngest in the Champions League. All this is not coming out of nowhere.”
One the post-Scudetto growth: “We have seen that on the retail and e-commerce side there has been tremendous growth. But I think the most important thing is to show the world that your strategy is working well. There is more interest when you are champion, but this cannot happen every year, because it is uncertain, so I have to know how to reshape my work. Obviously we have to take the opportunity, but if we don’t win I don’t want to hear excuses because we don’t sell.”
On American ownership: “I think it’s nice to have American input because there is a fusion, as I said before, between entertainment and sports. The fans are changing and we have to do that. And I think these resources are underestimated.”
On the Super League: “It’s probably a project that has been bubbling for many, many years. It never got the attention it had a year and a half ago. Going back to the subject, it is as if it were a festival: there are the main names and then the secondary ones. Usually people go to see, and pay, for the main ones. But I think there must be a collaboration in terms of what it should look like in the future.”
On Studios: “We have doubled the production of digital content in the last two years by having these studios available. We also give all partners the ability to produce content here. The trend is that clubs are becoming ‘media houses’. We have a great team and we are investing in this. And we see that this is the future, something that makes us stand out on other clubs.
“Before, on social networks, there was a focus on how many followers you had, now instead we talk about the percentage of engagement. And I see that there is a great competition off the pitch between all the clubs to involve the fans, who want to entertain themselves every day and always be close to the club.”
On the stadium project: “First of all, it must be said that Italy is one of the countries in Europe with the oldest stadiums. They have an average age between 60 and 70 years. And obviously the infrastructure has changed over the years. The stadium also gives a boost to revenue.
“Then, there is also the issue related to the safety of the fans: we are in a very old building and for the moment it is safe, but there are some services that we cannot offer at modern ‘standard’ levels.
“To be competitive with the top clubs we need to have this additional income… and we are losing tens of millions a year by not having an adequate stadium. I come from Denmark and as a foreigner I see how much passion for football Italy has and it is amazing how it is unable to provide the best facilities in the world.
“In the 80-90s, Serie A was the best league in the world, where the best talents in circulation played: it was a status symbol. If you look at Juventus they built their own stadium ten years ago and started to take off from other teams thanks to this new source of income. The difficulty in building new stadiums is absolutely limiting the Italian league.”
On the process involved in building a new stadium: “It is a long and complicated process. Roma gave up on it in the past, changed ownership and now they are trying again. We hope to receive an answer before Christmas, but the process is really too long. It is private money and we are trying to do something to improve, but both the political and legal systems in Italy certainly do not help you want to invest and build new and better plants.”
On the new RedBird ownership and the New York Yankees as minority shareholders: “I think we have the same vision for the club, because combining entertainment, sport, music, design and fashion in one is a unique opportunity because they can be superimposed. If you think of today’s players, they are also style icons.
“In terms of the new ownership, what they bring is definitely the knowledge to take this club to the next step and thus become a global powerhouse within the entertainment industry. I am truly convinced that with their skills and their network we can do it.
“Now we have a partnership with the Yankees that we are really excited about. The Yankees are airing our weekly program on their network, ‘Yes Network’, which will bring more fans and more brand awareness to North America, at least on east cost and it is also something that we we will bring here, trying to develop the Yankees brand outside the United States.
“There are so many projects, really interesting projects that I hope to be able to talk about at another time. This collaboration will change the way people look at football and sport in general. We hope to create and develop even more fandoms.”
On going more and more in a direction of self-sustainability: “Exactly, we have to be a sustainable business, we have to be a real company. And I think you see that many European franchises do not behave like a company: sometimes the ‘business side’ of the club is overshadowed.
“We see and believe we are creating a real company here, which is why we have so much potential. We have more than 500 million fans around the world; I won’t go into how we need to monetize these numbers. No, I’m just talking about the size and scale of the brand.
“We need to find a way to make money from this, because when we contact someone we can say that it is not just our duty as keepers of the club and those who do business, but we can also go and talk about more serious and important topics like our Milan Foundation, how we can convey and use our relevance as a club to spread these messages: one of which has mo fought really hard is that of racism.
“So we can also help from these points of view, it’s not just something related to the commercial side: we refer to using the brand in the right way.”
On future investments: “Up until now we have been busy, but seeing where we are going we will be even more busy and excited about this. I am really convinced that here we can create the best football club in the world. With the right mindset and the right I don’t see why we can’t be one of the greatest clubs of all time. With this brand, with the history we have, having won 7 Champions League, there’s really a lot of potential to keep growing.”