Cristian Nyari: “Matchday experience in Europe is about the match itself whereas in the US the match is a part of the overall experience.”

Bayern München and German football do not need special introduction. They are at the very top of the association list to somebody in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia when somebody mentions Germany. In North America the situation is a bit different and offers space for big growth.

Even though Bundesliga is a product that is capable of selling itself, the league does provide a lot of material in English both on social media and on TV, while Bundesliga clubs themselves are pretty darn good at social media communication.  German Bundesliga has a North American television deal with Fox Sports and according to the league’s Chief Executive Christian Seifert, Bundesliga is looking for ways to get bigger fan share of US audience. The biggest German football club Bayern München decided to take a big step in that direction – they opened a New York City based office with a mission to “lead FC Bayern’s strategy for growth in the United States”. Bayern München US twitter account has become a recognizable entity itself on the Bundesliga social media skyline, so this is the perfect time to pick their brains.

We managed to secure an interview with Cristian Nyari, Media Manager at FC Bayern München. In this interview he talks about Bayern München US goals, plans, ideas and much more.

Overtime: “At what point did Bayern München decide to open the office in New York City?

Cristian Nyari: “The office opened in spring of 2014 in an effort to build the brand and grow our fan base. FC Bayern has a large international fan base and the US is one of the fastest growing markets for soccer, so to make a sustainable long-term impact we realized we had to have an on-the-ground office to really get in touch with our fans, media, stakeholders, etc. The US is the most competitive sports market in the world so having local expertise and facing the market head-on is vital in our success.

Overtime: What North American campaigns are you most proud of so far?

Cristian Nyari: “From a media and fan engagement perspective there are several examples I’m really proud of including our successful US tour this past summer, but one that to me still really stands out and one that helped create the large network of fan clubs we have here is the “Starting XI” campaign we did at the beginning of 2015. This was aimed at reaching out, recruiting and connecting fans all over the country and organizing them into fan clubs. We lowered the number of required fans for a fan club to eleven and used our social media platforms as a tool to reach out and promote the campaign. We built relationships with them, brought fans together to watch games in bars and gave them direct access to our NY office for support and promotional purposes. Over time, by summer of 2015, we were able to create the largest official fan clubs’ network of any European teams in the US, which we capped off with a fan club tournament on a cruise liner in Miami. We’re now at 107 fan clubs in 37 States in the US, 10 more in Canada and growing! Across all our social media platforms, we have over 2 million users from the US which has doubled in just the last year and a half alone.”

 

Overtime: What are Bayern München’s main future goals in North America?

Cristian Nyari: “It is to continue to grow and serve our fan base and build the FC Bayern brand. Along the way we engage our existing partners and also take grassroots and institutional approaches through our partnerships with our youth organization Global Premier Soccer or Columbia University’s Sports Management Master’s program for example.”

Overtime: You were the Chief Editor at Bundesliga Fanatic. As an expert in Bundesliga matters what new does the Bundesliga offer to the North American public and which aspect of the Bundesliga is the most intriguing to the North American public?

Cristian Nyari: “I think the Bundesliga is unique and different from any other major sports league with its great atmospheres, packed stadiums, attacking soccer and commitment to the fan experience. We have noticed a noticeable growing interest in the Bundesliga and German soccer since FOX Sports started airing the league last season and that is continuing to grow quickly. I believe soccer fans in the US find it very interesting how Bundesliga clubs and the German federation focus on youth development and the many chances young players get at clubs. There is something authentic and real about how German clubs operate that taps into what attracts people to sports: community, emotional connection, storytelling, etc.

Overtime: What are Bayern München’s main future goals in North America?

Cristian Nyari: “It is to continue to grow and serve our fan base and build the FC Bayern brand. Along the way we engage our existing partners and also take grassroots and institutional approaches through our partnerships with our youth organization Global Premier Soccer or Columbia University’s Sports Management Master’s program for example.”

Overtime: Bayern München and other Bundesliga clubs provide excellent content on social media on a daily basis and serve as role models to other clubs including North American clubs. How successful has this “meme reaction” approach and inter-club fun communication proven to be for Bayern in North America?

Cristian Nyari: “Well first, thanks for the compliments! I think Bundesliga clubs have a real opportunity here to distinguish themselves through their content on social media and really build relationships with existing fans as well as reach new ones. We don’t just see it as “memes” but rather engaging fans in an organic and authentic fashion. Online communities have certain behaviors and expectations. We have to be conscious of that and adjust our communications accordingly which sometimes means departing from traditions. Besides, it’s also a fun way to represent the brand to a new generation and audience that consume sports in non-traditional ways.”

Overtime: “Recently, one of the biggest NFL stars Odell Beckham jr. visited Bayern in München, spent some time with Bayern players and interacted with David Alaba off the field. Also, several Bayern players attended a Giants’ game in London during the NFL International Series. Did this campaign reach your goals and can we expect more interaction between Bayern München, New York Giants, the NFL and/or other North American sport brands?

Cristian Nyari: “These kinds of cross-promotional campaigns are great ways to create engaging content and a bridge to new audiences so it was absolutely a huge success. Many of our players are big fans of the NFL, NBA and other American sports. Similarly, leagues like the NFL and NBA are also interested in reaching out to new audiences, so it’s mutually beneficial that also has long-lasting benefits. For example, having Philipp Lahm throw out the first pitch 

in Chicago at Cubs’ game this summer turned out to be great later in the year when the Cubs went on their historic World Series-winning run. We immediately got a quote from Lahm congratulating the team which extended the relationship and the connection to more than just an appearance during our pre-season tour. Our fans appreciated it.”

Overtime: The more I learn about Bundesliga customs, traditions and fan culture like for example fanfreundschaften, the more I like the league. How much are these customs familiar to the North American fans and is this content provided to them on TV?

Cristian Nyari: “Our hardcore fans are definitely aware. A lot of them have German background and this is in part where the fan club culture has come from here in the US. On a wider scale this is a great opportunity for the league and German soccer to really make a dent in this market. FOX has done a good job of showcasing what makes the Bundesliga so exciting. The fan culture and traditions can be another great layer to their storytelling and marketing the league to a wider American sports audience.”

Overtime:  German Bundesliga creates a lot of excellent content in English, even post match interviews. How much of that content can be seen on North American TV channels?

Cristian Nyari: “FOX does a great job creating original content and programming around the Bundesliga as well as to highlight the interesting storylines and personalities throughout the league. For example, during our summer tour they created programming for the new season with Ancelotti and Alonso that served to promote the new season. Equally as important, they highlight viral social content for their digital platforms through their Buzzer accounts. For that we supply them with video content whenever they need it, another benefit of having a NY office for quick, efficient support and communication. In that sense we work together with FOX to promote the league.”

Overtime:  Which aspects of the North American gameday fan engagement can you see being implemented in Germany?

Cristian Nyari: “I think overall the match day experience in Europe is a lot more centered around the match itself where as in the US the actual game is part of the overall experience. That’s why tailgating is so popular here, it’s the entire lead-up to the game for hours in the parking lot with friends and family. It’s a communal experience and the match is the icing on the cake. That also has in my opinion to do with US sports structure which has more interruptions, are longer and are more commercial heavy.”

Overtime:  Apart from Bayern München, which other European football club or league can serve as a role model in North American marketing activities to other European clubs?

Cristian Nyari: “As far as benchmarks go we actually look more to what US sports leagues and teams do. As most of the sports and content standards are set here this is really beneficial for us to see first-hand where the innovation is, the first movers, what technology is being adopted, etc. We think the NBA is doing a fantastic job in creating engaging content and distributing it in ways fans want, whether that’s social video or experimenting with new technologies like wearables or VR. A lot of European teams and leagues could benefit from looking at what the US sports brands are doing.”

Overtime:  Do You have anything else to add, that wasn’t already covered?

Cristian Nyari: I would also emphasize in the entire interview the importance of digital and localizing content and marketing strategies to thrive and grow in different markets. Adapting to local culture, editorial tone, standards, etc. makes all the difference. That has been our approach with Bayern in the US through our media strategy and our US-specific digital media platforms and that’s why our work has resonated with fans.”

 

You can follow Bayern München US account on Twitter (@FCBayernUS), and you can also follow our guest Cristian Nyari on Twitter as well (@Cnyari).

Tomislav Žarković

Tomislav Žarković

Overtime Sports Marketing

If you have any questions about sports marketing, feel free to contact me at tomislav.zarkovic@gmail.com

Article sources:

meninblazers.com

fcbayern.com/us

 

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Excellent #digisport practice by @NYCFC informing its audience which content to expect on every platform during matchday. #smsports #NYCFC

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