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SBD Global/July 3, 2014/Franchises

Borussia Dortmund Making Move Into Football-Crazed Asia, Set To Open Singapore Office

Borussia Dortmund's Benedikt Scholz said Asian companies are already showing interest.
Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund is planning an eastward expansion. The German football club recently announced that it will open a representative office in Singapore in the fall to increase its global awareness and acquire new partners. Market research showed 10% of Singaporeans say that they have an affinity for the club, according to Benedikt Scholz, Borussia Dortmund’s head of business development & international relations. He added that the same is true for all the other Southeast Asian countries. Market research results and traffic on the club’s website and social media accounts indicate that Southeast Asia is the region where interest in the club has grown the most over the last several years. In addition, Dortmund’s shirt sponsor and new strategic partner Evonik, which extended its cooperation until 2025 and acquired a 9% stake in the club, as well as kit supplier Puma, are already based in Singapore. “It was a decision that we as a club made in order to increase our international relevance and to become an international brand. But obviously that was a very important fact for us. [Evonik has] a very explicit interest in the Southeast Asian market,” Scholz said. “Those two partnerships with Evonik and Puma will become more local and more international in the Southeast Asian area.” Borussia Dortmund is currently looking for someone to head its Asian office. Scholz said that the club has already identified candidates and hopes to make a decision in the next couple of months. The office will have a two-person staff in the beginning.

BUSINESS TIME: Scholz told SBD Global that Borussia Dortmund has already received interest from potential partners in the region but would not identify specific companies or brands. However, he said that it is quite difficult to follow up on initial discussions from Dortmund. “This business is a face-to-face business. It is based on trust and that’s why we think it’s important to have someone there who can work with these potential partners on a daily basis and enter into these discussions and follow up on discussions,” Scholz said. The club plans to expand existing partnerships in the region such as with China-based telecom firm Huawei while also pursuing new regional partnerships. “Some EPL clubs are already following this business approach and this is something we would like to carefully do for some very selective categories,” Scholz said. He added the club feels that regional partnerships might be possible in certain categories like beer. Scholz: “The most important thing for us is there has to be a brand fit and there has to be a benefit for both parties.” Dortmund’s current sponsorship structure includes several worldwide exclusive deals such as with car partner Opel and airline partner Turkish Airlines that make regional partnerships in those categories impossible.

ASIAN INITIATIVE: In addition to finding new business opportunities, the club is planning on playing friendlies or a preseason tour in the region. Scholz said, however, that the first step will be engaging with fans via digital and social media. In February, Dortmund launched official accounts on Chinese social media platforms Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo. The club is also considering local activities. Those will include grassroots activities, media partnerships and local advertising with partner brands. In terms of grassroots activities Dortmund will look at establishing youth camps and soccer schools, which it already has successfully executed in Japan. Scholz said the club will provide license-free content to local media. He added that advertisement in local media is another interesting way to spread Borussia’s colors. As the cherry on top, the club is considering flying in its Bundesliga team to play friendlies and tournaments in the market. Scholz said that all those activities call for a local presence of the club, someone who can get in touch with local partners and agencies to properly coordinate these activities.

OUT WEST: Another market the club has set its eyes on is North America. Borussia Dortmund sees big future potential in the North American market, specifically in the U.S. Scholz said that outside of Germany, the U.S. is the second biggest market in terms of sales for the club’s online shop. He added that the Bundesliga’s new broadcast deal with Fox, which will take effect in ‘15, will provide more coverage and help increase awareness and interest in the league and its clubs. However, there are currently no specific plans by the club to follow league rival Bayern Munich in opening an office in the States.
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