- The German Bundesliga ran six live fan experience events around the world in 2019.
- SportBusiness attended the Bundesliga Experience Jakarta in November to see how the events are put together.
- The league uses the events to give overseas fans tangible experiences, and to build emotional connections with them.
Live fan experience events have become a fixture of the German Bundesliga’s strategy to nurture its overseas fanbase. The league is running six such events around the world in 2019 – in Thailand, Mexico, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Ghana (coming December 2019).
Indonesia is one of Asia’s football hotspots, and Bundesliga research indicates there are more than 50m football fans in the market interested in the league. Ahead of the Jakarta Bundesliga Experience earlier this month, Kevin Sim, Bundesliga International head of Asia-Pacific, explained to SportBusiness the thinking behind the Bundesliga Experiences: “We need to bridge the distance…One of the easiest ways is to take that experience and the unique qualities of the Bundesliga and bring it onsite.”
He added: “We take extreme efforts to make sure that these experiences are delivered at the highest level…it’s not just an event for the sake of having an event. It’s really to deliver an experience that [fans] can touch, feel and understand.”
Features of the Jakarta Bundesliga Experience included:
- A five-a-side youth football tournament on a specially-built, temporary astroturf pitch.
- An appearance by Bundesliga ambassador Lothar Matthäus, the World Cup-winning former Germany captain – Matthäus was a dynamic presence for the Bundesliga over the three days in Jakarta. He attracted media and fans to the experience and prior events, generated headlines with interviews, and was generally impressive as a speaker, whether engaging with media, fans or young players.
- Appearances by other special guests – Indonesian social media influencers, Malaysian female football freestyler Qhouirunnisa, and Bundesliga mascots were all present to add colour to the day and to amplify media coverage.
- RFID points game – Attendees at the event registered for an RFID wristband at the entrance that was used to tally up points as they took part in games and challenges. Prizes were awarded to the highest points scorers at the of the day. The games were based around Bundesliga trivia and a football shooting competition, among other things.
- Virtual Reality experience – Attendees could don VR glasses to get a virtual experience of being at a Bundesliga match in Germany.
Sim said the event features were linked to important aspects of the Bundesliga’s brand and to the results of research on the local fanbase.
“We think about the Bundesliga’s mantra – ‘football as it’s meant to be’ – and how do we bring that to life.” He added: “The level of data that we have on our fans is quite deep. What we try to do is to get a glimpse of what they perceive the league to be…[In Indonesia], a few components stood out. They believe the Bundesliga is distinguished from other leagues by the quality of our football, and that we have a lot of young talented players.”
At Bundesliga Experiences, he said, “we always have a football tournament for youth players…In the case of Indonesia, we worked with Borussia Mönchengladbach. They brought coaches from Germany, gave onsite training, gave an understanding of the youth development work that we do.”
The VR component was there because the league sees itself “as a company that has innovation at its heart. So it’s important that we look at continuous innovation in everything we do. VR…gives fans who don’t otherwise have an opportunity to travel to Germany [the chance] to experience the stadium atmosphere.”
Genesis and execution
Bundesliga Experiences are broadly developed by the league’s global marketing team, and then tailored and executed by the local offices alongside local partners. The teams around the world share ideas and lessons from each event.
“It takes a bit of research, market knowledge that we have from local offices. Then feedback from headquarters and the clubs. We put that all together…and we execute accordingly,” Sim said.
The Jakarta Experience was led by the four-person Bundesliga Asia-Pacific office in Singapore. A couple of staff flew in from Germany to help deliver it. Indonesian sports marketing agency Mahaka Sports helped with the venue – at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium – and other operational aspects.
The league keeps its clubs informed of such marketing activity, and they contribute as they see fit. For Jakarta, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Matthaus’s former team, was heavily involved, sending coaches to give local young players a flavour of the German coaching style.
Investment and return
Sim declined to comment on the level of investment in the Bundesliga Experiences, but said: “it’s a substantial outlay. There’s no point doing small-scale events. That doesn’t really attract the attention, doesn’t captivate the imagination of the fans.”
When it comes to measuring the return on investment, Sim said he looks for a mixture of quantifiable and non-quantifiable feedback.
“We have global, broad metrics that [Bundesliga International] strives for and works towards, around growing the brand, growing our presence. Specific to the event, we measure…on-ground attendance, the level of media coverage, social media reach and engagement, and other digital metrics.
“But we also take feedback from people on ground, from our partners… not all metrics are measurable.”
International rights-holders know that they cannot rest on their laurels when it comes to nurturing overseas fanbases. Audiences around the world have access to a wider range of entertainment than ever before, and the competition for their attention is getting ever sharper. Live, in-market activity by rights-holders is on the rise, and the Bundesliga Experience events are examples of a trend that looks set to continue.