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Selling Milan


You may have heard the phrase “selling ice to eskimos.” But Barbara Berlusconi has the task of selling manure as if it were gold. Taking a team that has not only fallen from grace, but whose quality has decreased exponentially in the last two and a half years, and trying to increase the revenue via clever marketing, increasing brand awareness, and selling more merchandise, amongst other things. She may as well have taken that ice job with the eskimos, because it is almost impossible for anyone these days to be selling Milan.

The only one in management who knows what the fans want

All Milan fans know the story: the mass exodus of the Senatori, and the selling of Ibra and Thiago Silva, as well as the loss of many others in the summer of 2012. But it didn’t stop there. The turnover in the squad since then has been incredible. If I can find a calculator with more digits, maybe I’ll count up all of the changes one day. You could just buy a 2014 Milan calendar, for example to see all of the changes in our squad in just this calendar year alone. And the changes have not necessarily been improvements. In fact nearly all of the good players are long gone, leaving us with Galliani’s ridiculous “deals” and free transfers, which the Curva Sud called out at the presentation of Inzaghi at Casa Milan this year.

"So if you pick up the adult diapers and the denture cream, I can get the prune juice and the arthritis cream for them"

But despite the archaic thinking and stubborn practices of her father and her co-CEO, Barbara has taken the task of moving Milan into this century, and is doing it in style. She is perhaps most noted for the relocating of Milan headquarters from the famed via Turati 3 to Casa Milan. But she wasn’t just looking for cheaper real estate, or a vast increase in office space. She orchestrated the concept of a gathering place for fans, with a cutting edge museum instead of the one from the Dark Ages underneath the San Siro. And a restaurant and a store, so fans would come and spend more time and money. A giant screen outside, as well as indoor viewing, too, where matches can be shown. And a trophy room where everyone could see Milan’s heritage… for a price.

But it wasn’t just a clever marketing ploy, it had to have style, be innovative, and be an instant landmark to draw people outside of Milano proper and increase Milan’s brand. So she hired Fabio Novembre, a famous Italian artist and designer, whom she had worked with to create the Seconda Pelle (Second Skin) book and exhibit previously. The same exhibit for which the iconic giant Milan busts were created, which now sit at Milanello and also Vismara. Ironic that as she has worked so hard to get people to remember what Milan has stood for during her father’s ownership, her now co-CEO has taken the club the opposite direction on the pitch.

Pulling the club forward one project at a time

Casa Milan and the rest are just a couple of things which she has accomplished in her relatively short time at the club. She has greatly improved the merchandise as well as the availability of it to the general public, not to mention the e-stores and quantity of them throughout the world. She has improved the official website, and finally gotten reliable ticketing available worldwide, as well as the worldwide availability of the Cuore Rossonero cards, which allow discounts, offers, and priority stadium tickets for fans. And now there are even talks of building at least two more Casa Milans worldwide to increase accessibility for fans.

The club’s overall social media has improved dramatically, with coverage of the Youth Sector as well, in addition to the media coverage of the club and accessibility of it to the fans. She is building and expanding markets worldwide, including Japan with the arrival of Honda, and now also China, amongst others. And she has greatly improved the sponsorships, both in number and in income for the club, and is still expanding partnerships and sponsors all of the time, regardless of the results on the pitch. In fact, it almost seems like the club is more of an ad agency than a football club, with players sometimes making better appearances in commercials than on the pitch.


These are just a few of the things that she has accomplished already, with more on the way all of the time. She is one of the only ones at Milan who seems to understand that revenue needs to increase and is trying to undo the damage to the Milan brand over the past couple of years, too. However her biggest feat will be getting Milan to own their own stadium, something she is diligently and tirelessly working on. All of the news surrounding various land parcels being looked at to build a new stadium are just a few of the headaches and red tape she is going to have to endure to make it happen. But with her commitment and determination, I expect it to happen sooner rather than later.

Bringing the club's legacy into this century

The travesty here is the unanswered question: will Milan’s squad be worthy of a new stadium when it happens? I was thrilled when she threw the gauntlet down after the successful opening of Casa Milan and just ahead of the transfer window opening this summer. She said, "I hope that Galliani will do an exceptional job in order to bring us back into the Champions League." Kind of an “I did my job, now you do yours” statement. And can anyone blame her? If only Galliani would show even an ounce of innovation or change in his practices, Milan’s squad would be so much better for it. So not only has Barbara been charged with being the only source of innovation or even keeping up with the times within the club, she has the unenviable task of selling Milan. This Milan.


This post inspired by the music of No Doubt’s “Just A Girl”