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The James Effect

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Bayern’s social channels saw six-figure growth in following the day the James deal went through.

James rocking the new jersey (Photo via @FCBayern)

On July 11, Bayern Munich announced they had signed James Rodriguez to a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid.

The Colombian, who spent three years in Madrid, primarily played off the bench and was never able to establish himself as a regular in the starting 11.

Generally, a loan deal for a fringe player isn’t huge news.

In James’ case, it was.

Recently, I wrote an article on the power of an athlete’s brand. As mentioned in the article, James Rodriguez is the face of soccer in Colombia and his brand, like many South American superstars, is strong due to what he represents for his country.

James set the World Cup on fire in 2014 by finishing as the tournament’s top scorer and becoming the first Colombian to win FIFA’s Golden Boot. His scintillating performance earned himself an €80 million move to one of the world’s most iconic clubs, Real Madrid.

However in the three years since his move to Spain, James fell out of favor with the new manager and had been primarily confined to the Madrid bench. Not only did this leave the player unsettled, his brand’s international appeal had seemed to diminish.

That was until his loan to Bayern was announced.

While a move for the Colombian was inevitable, the rumor mill had linked him to the Premier League teams like Chelsea and Manchester United and the loan to the Bundesliga giants caught the soccer world by surprise.

In an age of inside information and social media, this deal was surely the ‘shock’ move of the summer.

The Bayern social media team capitalized on the soccer world’s surprise and James’ unexpected move led to unprecedented engagement for the powerhouse German club.

Within hours, the news was the number two trending topic on Twitter in the United States, a country where soccer is growing but still often overshadowed by the more popular football, basketball and baseball. The generated hype, garnered by a non-U.S. team, speaks volumes about the strength of James’ brand and the fantastic work done by the Bayern social media team.

One of the things that consistently sets Bayern apart on social media is the way it engages with its fans. The day of the James signing was no different.

The social media team went so far as to dig up a tweet a fan posted during the 2014 World Cup telling the club to sign James. Nearly three years to the day later Bayern responded, saying “sorry it took so long.”

Photos via (@FCBayernUS)

The account doesn’t take itself too seriously, which sets it apart from many teams. It was obvious to new fans and old that the people behind the account were having just as much fun with the announcement as the soccer fanatics of the world.

Photos via (@FCBayernUS)

Bundesliga’s English Twitter account joined in on the fun as well and played around with the unexpected announcement.

We feel the same @Bundeliga_EN, we feel the same. (Photo via @Bundesliga_EN)

The playfulness kept fans engaged as new, creative content was shared on the page throughout the day.

One Twitter user referred to the branding impact of James’ move to Bayern as the social media equivalent to Kevin Durant joining the Warriors.

In terms of soccer news in the U.S., it basically was.

The buzz generated from the news was huge and had a striking impact on the engagement of Bayern’s social channels.

Immediately following the announcement, the club’s social media following grew exponentially.

In first day alone, the Bayern’s global social platforms saw a six-figure increase in followers, according to Bayern’s Executive Board Chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. The Bayern Munich U.S. Facebook and Twitter accounts saw an increase in 13,000 followers, pushing the Twitter account over the 100,000-follower threshold.

Bayern’s U.S. website also saw a big spike in traffic, its largest since the site launched in 2014 and, overall, the club saw 11 million impressions on the announcement.

It’s safe to say the timing of the transfer couldn’t have been better as Bayern has been successfully been growing its presence in the U.S. since opening an office in New York in 2014.

With the move, Bayern’s Latin American presence is also certain to grow. The club is already home to Chilean Arturo Vidal and the addition of James furthers Bayern’s presence in the Latin region with the addition of the Colombian fan base.

Photo via PanAmericanWorld

While transfers generally generate big news, this might have been one of the most engaging loan moves in the history of the sport. Bayern Munich didn’t just pick up a Real Madrid bench player on a loan. They picked up James Rodriguez.

James is the player who breaks out into salsa steps after goals. The player who won the Golden Boot in the 2014 World Cup. The captain of the Colombian National Team. The player who was involved in more La Liga goals (55) than any other midfielder at Real Madrid since joining the club despite not being a regular starter.

His brand alone generated buzz and Bayern’s social savvy made it go viral.

Bayern will have plenty of opportunities for new, creative content with James on the squad (and plenty of dancing GIFs to be used at their leisure), while James will have a fresh start and the opportunity to prove himself in a way that he was rarely afforded in Madrid.

No matter the outcome of James’ next chapter, the Colombians will have his back. Their passion for soccer is hard to match and James, who led the country’s national team out of a dark decade of soccer, is the face of the sport in the country. Wherever he goes, they will follow because in Colombia, the James Rodriguez brand is untouchable.

Follow Bayern on the #AudiFCBTour on Twitter @FCBayernUS and Facebook.

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