Bayern Munich Builds Its U.S. Presence, Just Watch

Rudolf Vidal headshot

By JACK BELL

imagesOn Saturday, the Allianz Arena in Munich will be at the epicenter of Germany’s Bundesliga when Bayern Munich hosts Borussia Dortmund in the Der Klassiker.

Though Dortmund (in fourth place with 50 points) has little chance of overhauling first-place Munich (65 points) with only seven league matches left, the game attracts attention at home and abroad.

As Bayern Munich continues to build on its presence in the United States after opening an office in New York City several years ago, the club has announced that it will host a free watch party for game at the Upper 90 store in Astoria, Queens. Club officials plus Bixente Lizarazu, a star defender with the team from 1997 to 2004 and again during the 2005-6 season, will be in attendance and mingle with fans. Doors open at 11 a.m. at the store at 34-23 38 Street in Astoria; the match is scheduled to kick off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1 and the FoxSoccer2Go streaming app.

Ahead of the much-anticipated match, EoS spoke with Rudolf Vidal, the club’s President Americas:

Q: Leading up to the opening of the office in NYC, what were the goals for FC Bayern Munich in the United States?

A: Our goal when looking to open the office in New York was to grow our fan base and better connect with fans in the States, bringing them closer to the club they love. Our presence here also creates value for our existing global partners and the ability to form mutually beneficial partnership opportunities, ultimately helping grow the sport in this country.

We were the first European soccer club to take this approach in the USA with an office dedicated to building the brand and our success has meant we’ve been approached by a number of other clubs and leagues to share best practice.

Q: What were some of the early surprises?

A: We had conducted research before coming to the States and we knew there was a healthy interest in the club. We quickly realized just how many passionate fans we had all over the country but they didn’t know about each other. We had to work hard and on a grassroots level to connect our fans, bringing everyone together which we did via our Starting XI campaign that saw our official fan clubs grow from eight to 119 in the U.S. & Canada, the largest network of official fan clubs of any European team.

Q: What do you think have been the biggest challenges?

A: One of the biggest challenges was to navigate our way through the crowded and competitive U.S. sports landscape. It is by far the most saturated sports market in the world. For that we needed to and continue to accumulate as much information and knowledge about this market as possible. To keep learning, have local expertise, understanding of the market forces and dynamics has been crucial to our success here.

Q: Why did FCB become involved in helping MLS obtain sponsorship deals with Audi, T-Mobile?

A: We were not directly involved in helping MLS obtain sponsorships but we are always happy to facilitate introductions and to see our club partners invest in the sport here, which ultimately helps soccer continue to grow in this country.

Q: What is FCB trying to accomplish with an office in the US?

A: We have seen interest in FC Bayern Munich grow from 13 million followers to 27 million followers since our arrival in 2014. We want to help bring fans closer to the club they love and a big part of achieving that was to create a dedicated local fan service, offering assistance with queries, tickets and event support.

Q: Is the club/league happy with the shift in TV carrier from GolTV to Fox? If so, why? If not, why?

A: We’ve been working with Fox since they came on board a year and a half ago. Another advantage to having an office in the U.S. means that we can work closely with Fox, whether that’s to support their broadcasts or create programming around the matches to deliver increased and tailored content for the U.S. market. We understand that it’s also important to help raise the profile of the league and German soccer.

Q: FCB has been successful in increasing the number of fan clubs in the U.S., what are some of the club’s other accomplishments in the U.S.

A: Our global reach, presence and sponsorship activation has helped the club close five global sponsorships with U.S.-based companies, including Beats By Dre, Goodyear, Procter & Gamble, EA Sports and Apple. We have also secured several media partnerships (Univision, Goal, Yahoo, etc.) as well as institutional and grassroots partnerships with Columbia University, Gõthe-Institut and Global Premier Soccer (GPS). All the while we have doubled our digital footprint with our U.S.-specific platforms and carved out a unique voice to set ourselves apart from other European teams. We’ve accomplished a lot in three years and hope to accomplish a lot more for our fans, the club and partners.

Our 2014 and 2016 U.S. summer tours have also been a huge success, giving fans who haven’t been to Munich the chance to see their team on home ground. Last year we had over 180,000 people attend our three games in the U.S., reaching over 340 million people via social media and over 12 million via the TV broadcast. We are going to China this summer but hope to be back in the U.S. soon.