Bundesliga clubs believe their commercial ambitions in North and South America will be significantly helped by the league’s new regional head office in New York City.
The Manhattan office, which is run by Bundesliga International, a subsidiary of the German Football League (DFL), officially opened this week, with representatives of 10 clubs in attendance.
Bayern Munich already has an office in New York, which has helped the club grow significantly in the local market, but many rivals do not have the resources to follow suit. The shared office space provided by Bundesliga International, plus the staff’s efforts to push the league’s marketing and commercial projects in the Americas, are likely to prove hugely beneficial.
Felix Welling, the Wolfsburg head of corporate development, told SportBusiness: “In China we already have an office which we run ourselves but in the US we don’t have one. This is a very good idea for the Bundesliga to have a co-working space for the clubs and to use their networks as well. We don’t have [a US office] and we will definitely use it. It’s a great office to meet partners and it also shows them what the Bundesliga is about.”
FC Schalke 04 already works with Leverage Agency to push its brand in the US but has welcomed the added resource. Bjorn Endter, Schalke’s senior director, strategic marketing, said: “Working with an agency is not the same as having an office, where we can come to stop by and find out what is going on, what are the trends in the States, and what the feeling is about the Bundesliga. The office will be able to make contacts and open doors.
“I am here every second month – that is not enough. So we can get direct feedback from the office every day. Sometimes the agency tells you things and the office here can prove it, which is very helpful.”
Smaller clubs admit they ‘need help’
Many clubs with limited resources, such and Mainz and Bundesliga 2 club St Pauli, do not have the funds for internationalisation staff and admit they “need help” in this field.
Dr Jan Lehmann, the Mainz chief commercial officer, said: “We are small in terms of revenue and in terms of everything compared to the other clubs. This means we have limited resources and we haven’t done anything strategically in regards to internationalisation. We want to start to do something in the States and, with our limited resources, the Bundesliga office can help us with networking, to get to know the right people to give us information about the market, the local clubs and so on.
“Mainz has been playing 10 years in a row in the Bundesliga and we think it is the right moment to start thinking a bit bigger. We don’t have many fans internationally but becoming more and more on a global scale can help us in a domestic level. The perception is we are small and to change that perception, bringing in partners and sponsors from abroad is important.”
Bernd von Geldern, FC St Pauli’s managing director, added: “We are a very popular club in Germany but for internationalisation we have no staff. We need help a bit. In May we came to the States for the first time [to play a friendly against NPSL club Detroit City FC] and it was a big thing for us to handle so we need a bit of help here.
“We need help with people who know the market, the infrastructure, the hotels in cities, the right partners. We have our own ideas but they can help us in the right direction.”
Klinsmann: It’s important the Bundesliga has US presence
Jürgen Klinsmann, the former Bayern Munich forward and USA head coach, says now is the right time for the Bundesliga to improve its global standing to keep up with other leagues, who are making similar moves.
“The global soccer world is full of competition. With the Italian league (Juventus) signing Ronaldo and the French league (Paris St-Germain) signing Neymar they are sending clear messages that they are fighting for attention – and attention means money,” Klinsmann tells us.
“If you want to compete on a global stage this is what you have to do, you have to go outside of your comfort zone and figure out ways to grow your product. The Bundesliga, with a step like this, is doing it – and then you have to deliver it in partnerships with companies and maybe clubs here and bringing teams over for friendlies and training camps.
“I’ve been living here 20 years and it’s hugely important that the Bundesliga has a presence here because the soccer market here will continue to grow. You need to reach out and go there and be part of the process.”