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Women Play Critical Roles In ESPN+’s First ElClásico

ESPN+ will carry its first ElClásico – soccer’s top rivalry match between LaLiga clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid – in English and Spanish this Sunday (10:15 a.m. ET).

In front of the camera from the Camp Nou in Barcelona, commentators Ian Darke, Steve McManaman, and sideline reporter Alexis Nunes will call the match in English. Ricardo Ortiz, Mario Kempes, and reporter Martin Ainstein will provide Spanish-language commentary.

Behind the camera, a significant number of women play critical roles in the presentation of LaLiga on ESPN+ and ESPN networks. To learn more about these dynamic women, we asked about some of their proudest moments working on a preeminent soccer property across production, talent management, marketing, and programming

Michelle Bella,
Vice President, Sports Marketing

When we first heard that ESPN had acquired rights to LaLiga, we immediately launched an informal search for a musical artist who could elevate this property. I’ve been a massive fan of Rosalia for a while. Fortunately, folks kept bringing her name up as “the perfect fit” – authentic, from Barcelona, has a huge following, an ascendant career, and a new album coming out shortly. Plus, she’s a fan! Our trusted partner at ESPN Music Department, Kevin Wilson, helped lock her in. We have used two of her tracks thus far, and we are looking forward to utilizing more from her catalog for the rest of the season.

The collaboration across our teams makes me exceptionally proud. The ESPN way, right? Following a successful Euro2020, we assembled a fantastic cohort of thought-leaders – Maria Soares in Production, Caroline Tilton in Marketing, Chris Blumberg with ESPN+ Marketing, Tomas Casabal at G&L, and others – to promote LaLiga and ElClásico on ESPN+ and ESPN networks. It is a joy to work with so many dedicated ESPNers. Here’s to the blockbuster weekend!

Sonia Gomez,
Sr. Director, Programming & Acquisitions

I am most proud of helping to shape the collaborative company-wide effort from Day 1 of LaLiga on ESPN. It all started with the negotiation and some long days with Legal, Finance, the ESPN+ Programming team, Research, and DMED to finalize the deal. After months of meetings between LaLiga North America, our Comms, and Programming teams, we announced the new agreement as part of the May 2021 Disney Earnings Call.

Once announced, the brevity to get the company in a place to kick off the season in mid-August is a kudos to the strength of so many across Programming, Production, Marketing, Sales, the ESPN FC team, and so many more. Proud to work alongside the best people in the business!

Kate Hoolahan,
Director, Digital Media Programming

The launch of LaLiga and the preparation for ElClásico has required a tremendous amount of work across multiple organizations within the company. It has been amazing to see so many people come together in support of this initiative, sharing their knowledge and passion for the sport. Our team has worked incredibly hard to ensure everything is ready for a huge weekend of streaming on ESPN+, and we are really proud of the full week of surround ElClásico content to get fans ready for the match on Sunday.

Gisela Leyva,
Coordinating Producer, ESPN International and Deportes Production

My proudest moments come from the cohesive plan we put in place each week to combine LaLiga’s on-the-field action with the authentic passion of its fans in our coverage by having spectacular sets and a team of talented people managing the product. After long workdays, all I have is the pleasure and good feeling of being thankful for working on my biggest passion.

Nilda Lorenzatto,
Sr. Director, International Deportes Talent

It is an honor to work on this company-wide, LaLiga on ESPN+ project and be a part of its weekly success. After 18 years at ESPN, I enjoy meeting new colleagues and collaborating with them on LaLiga. Every LaLiga weekend is a big deal in the talent office. Our team, Sean Riley, Kalidia Reyes, and I coordinate and schedule talent for live matches and surround programming.

Being star-struck doesn’t often happen after years in this business. Yet, as we negotiated some of the talent deals for LaLiga, I took some moments to appreciate conversations with these legendary players, who, I might add, are terrific colleagues. We have an incredible talent roster in English and Spanish. I am looking forward to what they’ll bring to the first ElClásico on ESPN+.

Amy McTigue,
Content Producer, ESPN International and Deportes Production

Working on LaLiga is a dream for all of us who are fans of the game. For the big opening weekend production from Barcelona, I was lucky enough to produce the pre-game and post-game show, and it was exciting to be part of the beginning of our eight-year Spanish adventure! After we got off the air, we all looked at each other and said how much fun we had and that we couldn’t wait for more. As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I know all about epic rivalries; this weekend, we get to bring one of the greatest rivalries in the world to ESPN+. There is nothing quite like ElClásico, and I can’t wait to be part of Sunday’s coverage!

Maria Soares,
Sr. Coordinating Producer, ESPN International and Deportes Production

There have been so many conversations about how we make this a week-long dialogue around ElClásico, and not just the promotion of one game window. So many departments, platforms, and shows have stepped up and become part of the LaLiga conversation this week. We all know we can do amazing things when we all get behind a priority.

It’s been so exciting to see a company-wide effort to get behind this one significant game – ElClásico on ESPN+.

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