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Volume 6 No. 211
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Hangin' With ... Bayer 04 Leverkusen Dir Of Marketing & Communications Jochen Rotthaus

JOCHEN ROTTHAUS is the director of marketing & communications for Bundesliga side Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The club has made massive strides on social media over the past four years, including during the '15-16 season, when it added 1.51 million new fans. That marked the biggest growth percentage in the German top flight and the third-biggest growth percentage of all European clubs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen currently boasts 3.62 million total followers across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, an impressive number considering the team's home of Leverkusen, a city with a population of approximately 150,000 people. Rotthaus spoke to SBD Global via email about the relaunch of the team's website earlier this year and the role digital marketing is playing in the club's int'l growth.

On the club's plans to stream games and other content online ...
Jochen Rotthaus: We have been one of the first teams in the Bundesliga to regularly stream our friendlies and preseason games for fans. We also generally stream practices for fans to follow along and we regularly feature player interviews with one-on-one sitdowns. Bundesliga game streaming is obviously controlled by the league’s television deals but our new live-ticker concept that features pregame and post-game live updates is part of our concept of bringing fans who can’t watch on TV or in the stadium as close to the action as we can. This live ticker is on our website and across social. And like most clubs, generally, we use Snapchat for special stories and fun, lighthearted content.

On the growth of the Bayer 04 TV team ... 
Rotthaus: There are so many parts to a digital team these days. The Bayer 04 TV team has grown into a full production team for us that can shoot, interview and edit, while we have also added social media personnel as we’ve expanded our channels. We’ve worked with experts in a few key markets like the U.S., Mexico and Latin America to give us on-the-ground knowledge and expertise in those regions. And of course, you need graphics support for all the visuals that become part of the team’s output on the web and social media.

On the recent relaunch of the team's website ... 
Rotthaus: First and foremost, we wanted our new website to provide our fans with a more emotional connection to the club: bigger pictures, images with passion, up-close stories on the players of Bayer 04, the general feel of the club’s history and tradition. We have this feeling that gameday is celebration day and we wanted fans that might not be in the stadium to feel that they can experience the game via the web even if they can’t watch.

On the role Javier "Chicharito" Hernández, who played for the club from Aug. '15 through July, played in the club's recent growth on social media ...
Rotthaus: As I mentioned earlier, Chicharito had a big impact on helping us build our followers and grow our various social media platforms during his two years with the club but our strategy was in place long before he made an impact. Our existing platforms and outlook to grow digital content made it possible for us to see growth during his time. We had to have the pieces in place. The fact that the number of our social media followers increased, even after Chicharito's transfer to the Premier League, shows that the fans see Bayer 04 Leverkusen as an exciting brand.

On adding a Spanish-language version of the team's website ...
Rotthaus: We have a big Spanish-speaking audience and a strong connection to Latin America through previous players from this region for many years. Of course we see a Spanish-language site as an asset for our Mexican and U.S. Hispanic followers who became fans while Chicharito played for the Werkself too. On the other hand, we currently have Chilean Charles Aránguiz and Argentinian Lucas Alario, two players who keep attracting the Spanish-speaking fans. Along with the other international efforts in China, as mentioned earlier, a Chinese-language site might be a reasonable addition at an appropriate time.

On the role digital marketing plays in building a club's fanbase ...
Rotthaus: As we all know, digital knows no borders, unlike television or traditional print media. That’s the key to the digital equation. The fact that social media generally shares digital content such as photos, videos, online content makes it that much easier for the multiplier effect compared to traditional television, radio and print reach, which is more local and national. As a result, we’ve had massive growth in our Spanish-language social channels. Some of that was thanks to Chicharito, but a lot of that is from our strategic efforts in those areas. In the U.S., for example, we made three trips for winter training and we’ve seen media coverage in outlets like Men’s Health, the N.Y. Times, the L.A. Times, Orlando Sentinel, CNN and the Washington Post, places where we might not have previously been featured.

On Bayer 04 Leverkusen's efforts in Asia ... 
Rotthaus: You can never ignore Asia with its sports-crazy population and we’ve had our own experience with traveling to China in 2010 and to South Korea in 2014. It’s in the works again, we are still working out strategy and will start collaborating here with the Bayer Company as well -- but there is still some work to do.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.