SBJ/June 16-22, 2014/Franchises

Tour to launch Bayern’s long-term U.S. push

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Bundesliga power Bayern Munich is coming to America, and it plans to stay.

The club, whose team will make its first trip to the U.S. in 10 years this summer, has become the first German football club and one of only a few in Europe to open an office here. Its newly created U.S. subsidiary, FC Bayern Munich LLC, quietly opened its doors in Manhattan in April but the office will have a formal unveiling July 31. The subsidiary will handle all of Bayern’s U.S.-related business matters, including marketing, sales and PR.
  
Bayern intends to increase its stateside fan base and strengthen the position of its brand, product and philosophy in the U.S. market, said Jörg Wacker, the club’s executive board member for internationalization and strategy at the club. Bayern analyzed global markets and determined it would focus on two, the U.S. and China.

Wacker
“It’s a long-term strategy what we are doing here. It has to be sustainable,” Wacker said. “It’s not just flying over, playing a tour and leaving.”

The club also is interested in new revenue streams, though finances are not on the forefront of its U.S. strategy during the early phase. “We are open for new partnerships. For U.S. companies who are maybe interested in going to Europe,” Wacker said. “I think we are an amazing brand with great image results.”

A three-member team works out of the office, and development will dictate
Vidal
any future hiring, said Rudolf Vidal, managing director of the subsidiary. “The staff is enough for doing the first steps, and we also have resources from the headquarters,” Vidal said.

The club plans to work with TV, print and digital media outlets to generate original content and will launch a U.S.-specific website, app and online shop. No official launch dates have been set, but Bayern said it would happen before a summer U.S. tour that begins July 30 and runs through Aug. 7.

Bayern arrives in the States on a roll, having won its record 24th Bundesliga title this year. The team has appeared in three UEFA Champions League finals since 2010, winning in 2013.

It will take on Mexican side Club Deportivo Guadalajara at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on July 31 before flying to the West Coast to play in the MLS All-Star Game in Portland on Aug. 6.

Bayern will work with its global partners such as Adidas, Allianz and tour title sponsor Audi, which each hold an 8.33 percent stake in the club, to organize promotional events around the tour and beyond.

“The tour is a big step. It will provide the fan base here in the U.S. with the opportunity to see our players and get connected to them,” Wacker said. The club said no other activation plans had been drawn up yet.

Bayern can use midfielder Julian Green’s appearance on the U.S. roster to bolster its efforts in the States.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

Vidal said that Bayern’s partners wanted to have the club in the U.S. market for marketing and communications purposes.

In addition to its Bundesliga team, Bayern has a women’s team and youth teams, and midfielder Julian Green will be playing for the U.S. in the FIFA World Cup, all of which it can use for future promotional events. The club also recently appointed club legend Franz Beckenbauer as its international ambassador.

Bayern already has held talks with Fox Sports regarding the network’s coming Bundesliga rights deal, which will start with the 2015-16 season. As the league’s flagship team, Bayern has a lot of interest in increasing not only its global profile but also the profile of the Bundesliga as a whole. “We are in the same boat,” Wacker said.

David Nathanson, general manager and COO of Fox Sports 1, said it is too early to share any information about the network’s plans surrounding Bayern, but said: “It’s hugely convenient that they opened an office in New York. It also helps us to connect with them, specifically anything we want to do around the club. … I think it will also help in gaining more interest in sponsorships in this territory.”

In comparison to the other European clubs and leagues, Bayern took its time to look beyond Germany’s borders. However, with the club’s recent on-field success and the league’s new international TV contract with Fox, Vidal said that it’s a good time to enter the U.S. market.

Wacker described Bayern’s hesitation to join other clubs of its international profile on the global playing field as typically German.

“Maybe we need a little bit longer,” he said, “but if we are doing something we want to do it right.”

HJ Mai is a staff writer for sister publication SportsBusiness Daily Global.

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