Digital is the Gateway to Growth

This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By: Stefan Kollenberg, @stef_kberg

Passion is an incredible feeling. It drives people to do things they never imagined and it is especially prevalent in the world of sport. It should be no surprise that Cristian Nyari’s story began with passion.

Cristian over at the Bayern Munich headquarters. PC: Cristian Nyari

From a young age, he was completely enthralled in soccer. Having grown up in Romania and Austria, it was not just a sport, but a way of life. He would play before school, during gym class and again after school, every day of the week. As he got older and moved to New York and wasn’t able to play as much, he was forced to keep up from afar. He would have friends send him two month old magazines so he could find out what had been happening in the European leagues.

Luckily for him, the internet happened. As soon as there was sports news available on early social media and message boards, he was all over it. He would search for the latest updates on European teams and connect with people in the industry who shared his passion. He actually believes his career started due to the advent of social media, as he used these platforms to make industry connections and get his name out there.

This exploration led him into the field of journalism, where he gradually grew his presence in the sports industry by writing for multiple publications, primarily Bundesliga Fanatic. He pursued this for many years and was extremely lucky to see the digital space explode. Taking complete advantage of this, he leveraged his network and was able to land an amazing gig with Bayern Munich. This was roughly two years ago when Bayern made a big push to develop their digital media presence and improve the expansion of soccer in North America. To do this, they set up a New York office, which is where Cristian took a role as the Media Manager. This title does not do his role justice. He is responsible for creating, implementing and managing the club’s media strategy in the US, including operation and development of digital platforms, communications, partnerships, sponsorships and campaigns. Essentially, he is a walking sports agency, fueling the growth of Bayern in the US and helping the German based leadership adopt new trends.

PC: Bayern Munich FC

As we spoke, he stressed the importance of having a diverse skillset. It helped him get a job and it is what will help students today find work. Cristian made an excellent point saying, “Nowadays, we are all digital natives and major brands are not as well versed as they should be. This gives us the opportunity to educate them on the best ways to ‘plug in’.”

The crazy thing about digital media is it moves so fast. We can never be stagnant, we need to continuously evolve. While right now we have the chance to nudge leadership in the direction of digital media, the exact same thing could easily be happening to us in a decade or two. To capitalize on this movement, teams need their ownership to change their mindset from traditional to new-age. This is extremely prevalent in the NBA, where roughly half of the owners come from a technology or entrepreneurship background. Their willingness to take risks, try new technology and push digital media has made them one of the top leagues in the world. That being said, there’s no way they expand so quickly without Adam Silver’s rights policy.

Silver is taking the NBA down a path that no other league has been before, encouraging the sharing of live game content. Every other league is so terrified about damaging their big television deals; they don’t want anything being pushed out through other live channels. Cristian and I completely agreed this is a very backwards way of looking at it, as fans do not stop watching television to instead watch a few highlights on their phone. Teams should be embracing the sharing of this content as a way of driving international awareness for their league and enticing people to tune in to a full game. The NBA has proven this theory over the past few years, as they’ve now expanded into more than 100 countries and seen a dramatic increase in the size of their television rights’ value.

International players are just one piece of the puzzle. PC: Paul Richardson

While the NBA is miles ahead, other leagues are slowly realizing this is the way to go. This was one of the main reasons that Bayern started a New York office. They want to learn from the American leagues, tech giants and major brands as they set the benchmarks for success in the digital age. Additionally, they want to help foster the growth of soccer in the US, working with the MLS and other European teams to strengthen the fan base here.

All in all, it is clear to see that over the past 20 years digital media has exponentially grown, fueling the globalization of sport. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, so buckle in and get ready for the next few years. We are only scratching the surface.

Check out Cristian’s work with Bayern on their US-specific Facebook, Twitter and Website.

This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration