CCO Vercellone outlines Milan’s ‘strategic vision’ and why the club are on the right path on and off the field

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan’s Chief Communications Officer Pier Donato Vercellone has given a long interview regarding the club’s project and plans for the future. 

Milan have been undergoing somewhat of a shake-up under the radar regarding the staff responsible for off-field issues. Among the notable changes, they appointed a new CCO in Vercellone and a new Corporate Communications Manager in Halajie Barjie, with the aim of continuing to heighten the exposure of Milan as a global brand.

We spoke to Pier Donato in November about his start to life as a Rossoneri employee, about why he was so drawn by the club and the targets that he and the management have in mind.

Vercellone spoke to Prima Comunicazione about his roles and responsibilities, and about what the plans are for the club moving forward, with his words transcribed by MilanNews.

“Milan focused on their image because the owner had an empire centred on communication. That was also a period of great sporting results. Now we are working to further strengthen communication, to make Milan be talked about regardless of the results which, moreover, are excellent today,” he said.

On why he chose Milan: “Much of my selection took place through Elliott’s London office. I was very impressed by the approach and strategic vision of Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis. He is a manager with a very strong personality.

“In Italy he is not yet well known, but in my opinion he represents the football of the future with an innovative but concrete vision. He does not philosophise, he is a competent one. As a young man he helped found and develop Major League Soccer in the USA and then moved to Arsenal in London, where he stayed for years and did well, living football not only on a business level, but also to enhance the sporty and technical aspect.

“Gazidis represents the thinking of the ownership that is very present – we see them every day in meetings – as well as for the financial and managerial aspects. They are the ones who have chosen all the leaders who have recently arrived. As for me, the opportunity to work in such a reality stimulated me.

“I knew a little bit of this world having worked for Nike for six years as head of communication first in Italy, then in Europe. As in that experience, more than the sporting component of Milan I was more fascinated by that of the brand, the ability to further develop a potential that is independent, even if not always, of results.

“There are teams that do not record exceptional performances, but are known and followed because they represent something significant in the world and know how to arouse passions for their distinctive characteristics. Milan is this: creativity, fashion, culture.”

On Milan’s appeal: “A legendary story made up of many timeless icons, now with a new project. This is also the aspect that interested me: innovating and looking at the future, without leaving tradition.”

On the promises made: “We are working to keep them. Gazidis is a firm believer that sporting sustainability must go hand in hand with economic sustainability. This concept is not always absorbed in the world of football, but it must be done because by now we are talking about a global business.

“The revenues must be reinvested in the team, which in return creates value, attracting the public, sponsors, and investors.”

On Milan being at the top: “I’ve been in it for some time now and I can say that there is a path, a trajectory, the result of a strategic vision. Gazidis and Maldini declared in two different interviews that one learns from mistakes, the important thing is to be united on the same path.”

On Milan’s youth project: “Focusing on talent is part of the vision of ownership, even if no one has ever thought of a team of kids.”

On the presence of Ibrahimovic: “He is a great character for the media. He is an icon. President Paolo Scaroni said once that he is like a supplement that you take in the morning and it gives you a lot of strength, but not addiction.

“He is something like a Hollywood star: skilled, overwhelming and above all very professional. He takes everything as a challenge and does it with a lot of sympathy, and it is he who dictates. We are lucky because he gets the front pages, but it is essential that with him there are other strong characters from a media point of view.”

On media management: “The focus is more on the sporting aspect and the management, and less on the enhancement of the brand or the corporate purpose, the vision and objectives of the brand and the property.

“Probably the choice to hire me – someone who did not come from the sporting world – had the objective of strengthening these areas. So I set up three sectors on which a team that has had new additional works. They have already arrived and others will be added, certainly one person by the end of the year. The colleagues on this team are all very good and have rich experience, some in journalism.

“This is an important area, because the world of sports journalism is very demanding and in a certain sense will also have to guide and mitigate situations that can be sensitive. So, a work of media relations, but not only that.

“There is no direct manager, but we are assigning specific tasks to a previously not too focused sector. The club has never developed integrated relationships with opinion makers, outside the sports area, or even with fans, excellent fans who can become testimonials. Based in Milan, several interactions of this type are possible.”

On commercial opportunities: “We have focused a lot on the domestic part, also at the level of media relations communication, while there is a great universe to look at, being able to count on a very international management. In Indonesia we have a large number of fans, as in the rest of East Asia and China. Same thing in South America.

“Worldwide, many fans are interested in the ranking, but also in other forms of activation: they may not be able to see all the matches, but they dream of Milan and love it for a universe of values ​​and emotions that involve them, or because they are South American players.

“The international part is as important as the corporate one, because a sports club is now a company, an entertainment company, like the NBA. There is also a commitment to corporate social responsibility in which we involve stakeholders in numerous activities to develop the social value of football, such as those we do with Banco BPM which, among other things, is a sponsor of the women’s team jersey.

“The issues related to diversity and inclusion are another of the strands of our social responsibility. Our management is very careful, also for the international background. Like many companies to freeze their activities and backtrack from a commercial point of view, Milan has managed to renew the agreements with key partners such as Emirates, Banco BPM, Bioscalin, StarCasinò Sport, EA Sports and to enter into new strategic partnerships such as the one with the digital payment company Skrill.

“In addition, numerous innovations have been launched that confirm the club’s attention to the worlds of entertainment and lifestyle: the activation of Milan playlists with Apple Music and Tidal, the landing in esports together with Qlash and the Milan Action on smart speakers by Google. To overcome global challenges, a clear commercial vision is required that leads to priority operations, in a specific and detailed way, in each geographical area.”

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Tags AC Milan Pier Donato Vercellone
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