Bundesliga Champion Bayern Munich Joins Int'l Champions Cup For U.S. Preseason Tour
U.S. soccer fans will see a rematch of the 2010 UEFA Champions League final when Bayern Munich and Inter Milan face off at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on July 30. The match is part of the Int'l Champions Cup preseason tournament, which takes place between July 23-Aug. 13 across various stadiums in the U.S. and Europe. While Inter Milan has been part of the ICC since its inaugural edition in '13, it will be the first time the defending Bundesliga champions are participating in the tournament. Over the last two summers, Bayern organized its own preseason tours. Last year, the club traveled to China, and in '14 the team played two games in the U.S. including the MLS All-Star Game in Portland, Ore. Being part of the ICC, which is organized by Relevent Sports -- a division of RSE Ventures -- makes it easier for clubs, Bayern board member Jörg Wacker said. "[The difference is] the power you have to put behind it," he said at a press conference in Charlotte on Wednesday. "It's easier to work with a company like Relevent, which is organizing all the games." This year's delegation will be significantly smaller than the 55 staff members that Bayern took to China in '15.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES: For the participating 10 European clubs, the ICC is not only a way to prepare for the upcoming season but also to establish new business connections. "Playing against the top teams is also very important for the positioning of your brand," Wacker said. "The overall goal is to get a stronger brand in the different markets, and to do this you have to do different things." The most important tool to connect with fans and brands is bringing the team, he added. Bayern Munich is already planning its activations around its three U.S. stops this summer -- Charlotte, Chicago and N.Y. The club will work with some of its global partners including adidas, Audi, Lufthansa and SAP to make the most out of the opportunity. Audi will once again be the title sponsor of Bayern's summer tour. All three of the club's ICC matches will be played under the "Audi Football Summit" header. The club handpicked the three cities it wanted to play in, and though Charlotte does not have the int'l allure of N.Y. or Chicago, it is home to about 200 German-owned companies, according to Relevent Sports CEO David Tyler. "Charlotte feels very German," Wacker said. "We are always trying to find new partners." The club considered playing a game in San Francisco or L.A., Wacker added, but ultimately decided to stay east of the Mississippi River. Since opening an office in N.Y. in '14, Bayern has been able to increase the number of U.S. fan clubs from eight to 92. It also established several media partnerships including Yahoo, MSN and Univision and signed a global sponsorship deal with Goodyear.
GLOBAL TOURNAMENT: For the second year in a row the ICC will not only host a 10-team North American tournament -- with several games taking place in Europe -- but will also put on smaller versions in China and Australia. ManU, Man City and Borussia Dortmund will compete from July 22-28 in China. In the Australian leg, Atlético Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus and Melbourne Victory will compete from July 23-29. Charlotte will host its third ICC matchup when Bayern and Inter come to town. Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, saw Liverpool take on AC Milan and Chelsea battling Paris St. Germain over the past two years. The matches drew 69,000 and 61,000 fans, respectively. "We are going to fill this place," Tyler bullishly said of this year's match at the 74,000-seat venue.
A LITTLE HELP: CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Erik Spanberg reported a bit of "German engineering helped attract" Bayern Munich. Klaus Becker, a steel trader who lives in Charlotte, targeted the club "to help lift the region’s profile in his native Germany." Last year, Becker, who moved to Charlotte in '79, contacted Rudolf Vidal and Benno Ruwe, the top execs at Bayern’s U.S. HQ in N.Y. With help from local tourism leaders, he "convinced the soccer officials to come to Charlotte for a visit." Becker: “It was a lot of back and forth, back and forth. We wanted them to see the city and see the city as it comes to life for a match.” Vidal and Ruwe "spent several days here last summer." Vidal, Wacker said, praised Charlotte as “an amazing city” when they discussed his visit. Wacker: “(Vidal) said, ‘We have to play here,’ and we said, ‘OK, let’s try to do it.’ And, today, we’re here” (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/23).