FC Bayern Munich: Leading the Way in Sports Innovation

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The team has had a massive year off the pitch and are looking to carry the momentum over to 2018.

Photo via @FCBayernMunich

As the worlds of sport and technology continue to merge, teams either need to adapt or risk falling behind. FC Bayern Munich understands that and has been leading the way in integrating technology into its strategy both on and off the field. Its proactive approach to innovation this past year has resulted in its nomination as one of SportTechie’s Most Innovative Sports Teams.

The club made a splash in the first half of 2017 by announcing the participating teams of the annual Audi Cup in a hologram press conference.

Using cutting edge technology leveraged through its partnership with Audi, the club hosted a press conference that transported Liverpool FC coach Jurgen Klopp and Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone to Munich via hologram. The press conference, which resembled something a science fiction movie, was the first of its kind in the soccer world.

Photo via @FCBayernMunich

As the year continued, Bayern remained at the forefront of innovation, focusing on improving the fan experience through creative partnerships and digital developments.

In May, the club announced it was teaming up with Tenor, the largest and fastest-growing mobile GIF-sharing platform, to make it easier for fans around the world to share their reactions to games and team news through GIFs.

“In today’s fast-paced, global world, it’s important that we empower fans to celebrate and share FC Bayern Munich across media and technology platforms when and where they want,” says Stefan Mennerich, Bayern’s Director of Media, Digital and Communication, “These GIFs bring to life the team’s most brilliant moments both on and off the pitch. Tenor is uniquely suited to drive usage of this content, leveraging its powerful matching engine and huge scale.”

Through Tenor, whose partnership with Bayern was its first with a sports club, Bayern enabled fans to creatively celebrate and engage with their team. This continued to be a theme throughout the year.

This fall, capitalizing on the growth of augmented reality (AR) technology, Bayern launched its first-ever AR fan experience, housed within the FC Bayern Munich app. The feature, available on the club’s iOS app, allows fans to insert lifelike images of captain Manuel Neuer or forward Arjen Robben into the real world using their mobile device’s camera.

The launch of the AR feature led to a surge in app downloads with new users increasing by 600% in the first week, a striking number taking into account the fact that iOS users account for approximately 40% of overall app usage and the feature is available solely on devices with iOS11 and newer Apple devices.

Following the launch of the feature, fans around the world took to social media using the hashtag #FCBayARn to share their photos with Neuer and Robben.

The club itself has made moves to advance its internal technological capabilities, announcing a partnership earlier this year with Siemens to develop software and cloud-based services aimed at improving safety and security technologies. The three-year partnership will have impacts on the field as Siemens Healthineers will serve as the club’s exclusive healthcare technology partner, equipping Bayern with an array of cutting edge medical systems to ensure players stay healthy and assist in injury recovery.

Heading into 2018, Bayern is positioning itself to continue its role as a leader in the area of sports innovation.

The club recently announced it is kicking off the new year by holding its first hackathon event, from January 19–22, 2018 at Allianz Arena in Munich. According to the club, the goal of the hackathon is to bring together fans, students and experts to develop new fan experiences and innovations, breaking new ground with partners including Telekom, adidas, Audi, SAP, Siemens and DHL.

“With the FC Bayern HackDays we are creating a new sustainable platform for innovation combining the creative power of our fans, partners, students and experts from all around the world,” says Mennerich.

Armed with new information following the club’s first ever FC Bayern Fan Survey, which was conducted this fall in North America, the hackathon will help the club continue to engage with its global fan base and improve the overall fan experience.

“We are a traditional football club from Bavaria with a very rich history of 117 years. Football was and will be always the core of our club. Innovations via technology and digital give us fascinating new opportunities on and off the pitch,” Mennerich says, commenting on Bayern’s innovation mission, “We are very keen to explore and implement those if consistent with our brand and DNA. However, there needs to be this fit as innovation only for the sake of innovation will not work in most cases.“

So far, Bayern’s investment into innovation has been paying off. On the field, the club has been a consistent leader in the Bundesliga, and off the field, it has seen surges in the growth of its fan base, particularly in emerging soccer markets like the United States. Its notably strong creative and engaging digital presence has been a huge catalyst in this growth. A Nielsen study found that since the launch of its U.S. office in 2014, Bayern has nearly doubled its digital audience.

Coming off a busy 2017 and with HackDays right around the corner, it is clear that Bayern’s innovation story is just beginning.

This piece was presented to you by AudienceView.

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