There aren’t many football clubs across Europe steeped in history and tradition more than AC Milan. Whether that be for its iconic home of the San Siro, or the seven UEFA Champions League titles it has won, the brand of the Italian football club is still felt throughout the world.
Over recent years, climbing back from a down period on the pitch, the Rossoneri have risen back to the summit of European football, winning the Scudetto in 2022 as well as making it to the Champions League semi-finals, where they were ultimately beaten by fierce rivals Internazionale.
And on-pitch success has translated into off-the-pitch success. Last October, AC Milan announced revenues of €400m for the financial year, turning over a €6.1m profit, the first time the club was profitable in 17 years.
This is in no small part down to the guidance and leadership of the club’s new owners, RedBird Capital, which acquired the club for €1.2bn in August 2022, adding Milan to its vast portfolio of major sports teams.
As part of RedBird’s transition as owners, the club’s marketing team has also undergone its own development, as Tania Moreno was named Chief Marketing Officer of AC Milan several months ago, continuing to spread the club’s brand in new and innovative methods.
“RedBird Capital Partners has tremendous experience at a global level. With their expertise, the club is now enjoying a new phase of growth on and off the pitch.”
Coming up from the RedBird camp, Moreno also held a position in aiding the Fondazione Milan – the club’s charity and community organisation – and whilst she revealed to Insider Sport that this was her first role working for a European football club, she will bring a wealth of experience from working in several other sports.
She shared: “While this is my first role in European football, it’s certainly not my first role in the sports or media world. It does feel like my personal interests and work experience have been merged together in this role.
“I have held marketing roles in various industries such as QSR, Media, CPG, Retail, Professional Sports, so it’s now an honour and a privilege to bring my experience into this role.
“I’m responsible for the teams that run brand, marketing, events, stadium entertainment, content, creative, production, social media, and digital products. I’m looking forward to helping grow this international brand even further and bring a commercial mindset to the role.”
Moreno’s imprint on the marketing team has already been felt, helping to launch the ‘Planting New Memories’ initiative over the festive period. The programme aims to plant 1899 trees – the year of the club’s inception – in order to promote and raise awareness to environmental support.
The international environmental initiative, which is an area not many high-profile football teams promote, is one of many avenues Milan’s marketing team has explored over the last year.
Moreno highlighted one major marketing success that transpired in 2023, that being the ‘A Light that Never Fades’ campaign encouraging Milan fans across the globe to light up their homes, cities and digital channels in the club’s famous red and black colours.
“The red lights spread all over the world, from the San Siro Stadium in Milan, to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and individual households across the globe.”
This was ahead of AC Milan’s Champions League semi-final clash with Inter Milan and whilst the club lost 0-3 across both legs, Moreno glowed on how successful the campaign had been in fostering support for the club, spanning different corners of the world.
“The concept was designed to unify fans globally and give them an avenue to show their passion/support for the club. This helped confirm the strength of the Rossoneri brand on a global scale,” said Moreno.
“The numbers are a testament to the success and huge impact of the campaign: seven million fans took part in the initiative, with the content posted by the club reaching over 50 million views and totalling over 88 million impressions. The red lights spread all over the world, from the San Siro Stadium in Milan, to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and individual households across the globe.
“The campaign won three silver Clio awards in 2023, which is an organisation that annually celebrates the best of sporting advertising all over the world.”
The AC Milan brand spread across the globe through its marketing, indicative of the club’s continued presence as a giant of European football. Interestingly, however, the club has built up a presence in a country not typically known for its love of the game.
Due to RedBird being a US-based company, its ownership of Milan has opened up new ventures for the club that has intended to not only enhance its brand, but increase its fan base in a country that is gradually growing its engagement with football, or otherwise known as soccer.
This will have only been accelerated further with the arrivals of US internationals Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah at the club last summer.
Pulisic would then play his first games for the club in a preseason tour of the US west coast, competing against Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in front of large scale crowds at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Moreno highlighted the preseason tour last summer as a “nice revenue opportunity” for ticket and merchandise sales, as well as garnering further sponsorship interest and is optimistic about growing the club’s stateside fan base, especially with younger fans.
She said: “You have to remember that the US soccer fan is a lot younger than the fans of other leagues. So this is a tremendous opportunity to activate differently in spaces where the younger audience spends time.”
But the synergy of on-the-pitch success to off-the-pitch success never rests, and RedBird may hold the keys to opening other US avenues for the club through its portfolio of sports teams and high-profile partners.
This portfolio synergy saw the Italian club partner with the New York Yankees enabling both teams to sell one another’s merchandise stores in Milan and New York adding to the club’s growing US fanbase.
With partnerships in other sports and the fashion industry taking shape, as well as opportunities in the film and music sectors all within reach, Moreno views this as an opportunity to market the club to new audiences and continue its growth.
“RedBird Capital Partners has tremendous experience at a global level. With their expertise, the Club is now enjoying a new phase of growth on and off the pitch,” said Moreno.
“We play in music, gaming, fashion, entertainment and other areas to connect differently with new audiences and reinforce relationships with existing fans. RedBird has helped open many doors for us in these industries.
“As an example, we are now partners with The New York Yankees. We are currently selling each other’s merchandise in Milan and New York. The YES! Network now regularly broadcasts hours of AC Milan content to its audience, and we’ll have other collaborations soon to launch that will help bring us closer to our American supporters.”
However, much like every club coming off a season of success, complacency can become an issue, which is why Moreno and her team are continuing to cultivate new and innovative methods and even technologies to address pressing issues.
Milan’s CMO revealed that the club is tapping into AI to decipher through any hate comments on social media platforms, an unfortunate issue that still continues today.
She explained: “We are trying to leverage AI to comb through comments sections on our social media channels to flag hate speech. While we encourage fans to express themselves on our social channels, there is no room for hate in this game.
“We love engaging with fans on a global level so long as it’s not hateful. Without giving too much away, you’ll also see some innovation in terms of merch collabs next season.”
2024 is also a significant year for the 19 time Serie A champions, celebrating its 125th anniversary. This is a momentous occasion, celebrating the club and its legendary players, from Franco Baresi to Kaka, to Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini, and the marketing team will look to ensure this is presented properly.
Planning to release a special edition 125th anniversary kit this year, Moreno noted that Milan is “leveraging this as a moment to engage with our global fanbase and future fanbase in new ways”.
Even the most casual of football fan will recognise the iconic red and black colours of the Rossoneri, a testament to not only its ability to maintain its consciousness within the sports ecosystem, but also the efforts of the marketing and front office teams in continuing to find new and innovative ways to keep the AC Milan brand moving in the right direction.
After an 11-year wait for its Scudetto success in 2022, and a return to form in European competition, Milan has risen from a lengthy down period and will now look to the next 125 years to continue to remain as one of Europe’s footballing giants.