Maybe it’s the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brasil, but lately, we’ve been talking a lot about football (or soccer, as some prefer to call it). As an avid reader you will know that our headquarters are based in Munich/Germany, which also happens to be the home of one of the most valuable football clubs in the world: The FC Bayern Munich. In fact, it is the single most valuable club, as the latest report from the brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance suggests.
This is some interesting news, despite the fact that the FC Bayern achieved this title for the second year running). We’re not going to talk about our Avantgarde Sponsoring unit, which advises players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Alaba. We haven’t seen the full Brand Finance report yet, but we can make an educated guess what sets the FC Bayern (and most other clubs in the top 10) apart from the majority of clubs. It is remarkably similar to what more traditional brands have to follow to gain “fans” – or loyal customers. That’s why we’ve listed all of them here:
There is no arguing that without success you won’t be popular in the long run. The FC Bayern might have missed the Champions League title this year, but they won it the year before and advanced to the semi-finals, only to lose against the later winners Real Madrid. They have dominated the domestic ‘Bundesliga’ for the past two years and won the league title in March – the earliest a club has ever achieved this. And they won the last two German cup finals, also no mean feat. They are also financially sound and one of the most profitable sports clubs, which goes against the tradition of burning through a lot of money in order to win a few titles.
2. A consistent image, authenticity & tradition
Like it or not, Bayern Munich always draws on its Bavarian traditions, even though only four out of 25 players from their current squad grew up in this southern state of Germany. Whenever they celebrate a title, the players and management dress up in traditional Bavarian “Lederhosen”, drink Bavarian beer and indulge in all sorts of other Bavarian traditions. It didn’t take long before their current manager Pep Guardiola donned his pair of Lederhosen, and he seems to embrace this image, too. On top of that the club is known for its strong social conciousness regarding struggling or retired players, and even other clubs that are in dire straits. While becoming an international enterprise, the FCB still retains the image of a big “family”.
3. Being different
All of the points listed above also mean the club is different from a lot of other clubs. Different in terms of image, but also in terms of financial aspects, the signing of players, the long-term strategy. On top of that, former president Uli Hoeness (now serving a prison sentence for tax fraud) has been a master of making controversial statements. Thus, he helped carving out a distinct image of the club, and get media attention and fans talk about the club.
4. Potential for identification
As mentioned above, the FC Bayern is deeply rooted in its Bavarian traditions. It also consistently signs players that are already or will become role-models for fans of the club or the German national team – and lately other national teams as well. In contrast to all its success, the club appears a lot more approachable for their fans than other big clubs like Manchester United or Real Madrid.
5. Knowing your audience and getting exposure
The former FCB president Uli Hoeness once famously said about the low ticket prices compared to other European leagues: ‘We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.’ The club caters to its fans needs, listens to them, and with over 220,000 members the club enjoys the biggest support of all German clubs. Of course it helps that you can watch some games and all match highlights on public German television. The exposure the club achieves domestically is phenomenal. With the success the club has enjoyed over the past few years and careful investment in foreign markets (predominantly in Asia), the FC Bayern is destined to grow as a global brand, too.
6. A superb experiential element
Football supporters love the real experience of cheering for their club: A visit to your team’s home turf, and to experience the atmosphere of a football match firsthand. FCB’s home ground is spectacular, different, and innovative. It also doubles as a popular tourist destination, complete with guided tours and a museum. The Allianz Arena is the place where brand and consumer meet, and just like a contemporary showroom it provides the best possible experience for a casual football fan. The club also created a vibrant online community, where fans get first-hand information, discuss the club with other fans, and have a means to stay connected between match days. To Bayern, tradition does not mean being old-fashioned. It is the blend of authenticity and innovation that sets them apart from the lot.
Cover photo: schollmolch/Flickr CC