In 2014, FC Bayern Munich opened an office in the United States. Since then, their hold in the American market has grown tremendously as they’ve invested in building relationships with fans new and old across the country. Last week, as a part of this initiative, Bayern hosted a Champions League watch party at Bleacher Report’s office in New York City.
The event, which was the first-ever team-specific watch party held at Bleacher Report, had over 120 attendees including a mix of fans, club partners, potential partners, media, and influencers and was an example of how Bayern has worked to provide interactive opportunities for their American fans and stakeholders.
“Our team and almost all of our competitions are in Europe, which means we have to constantly think about creative ideas that help grow the fanbase and increase awareness of our brand,” said Rudolf Vidal, FC Bayern Munich’s President of the Americas.
Bayern have been executing these ideas consistently, connecting with fans through their Fan Club Roadshow, an initiative launched last August that brings the club to fans clubs across the country during the biggest matches of the season. The event at Bleacher Report, however, allowed Bayern the opportunity to be more creative with their pre-game activations than they typically can with the Roadshow watch parties.
“[F]or the first time, we had FC Bayern legend and World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu dial in on FaceTime just before kickoff to answer questions about the game, talk about his experience in the Champions League, how the players would be feeling, what they need to do to win, etc.” said Vidal.
Bleacher Report’s involvement in the watch party allowed the media company the opportunity to show off their new office, which opened less than a year ago, and signaled a shift into the experiential marketing space.
“We have a fantastic space and we want to show it off. We want to show our fans and our partners that we’re the destination of millennials and that they should take advantage of the space we have,” said Brian Kelly, Senior Vice President of Sales at Bleacher Report.
To support events like the one with Bayern, Bleacher Report has been growing out its events team and recently brought on an experiential team to coordinate events not only within the NYC office, but at places like the Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Weekend.
“I’ve been at Bleacher Report for about 10 years now and this is the first time over the last eight to 10 months where we’re really diving deeper into experiential and events,” said Kelly.
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Another area where Bleacher Report is investing is in soccer, sharing a goal with Bayern of growing the sport within the U.S.
Through its roadshow, Bayern has been bringing soccer history and culture to the fans in a way that often isn’t available in the States.
“We take our trophies, Berni the mascot and signed jerseys for raffles to our fans’ watch party, in their local bar where they watch the games week in week out,” said Vidal.
This approach has allowed Bayern to reach over 1,500 fans in-person in the last year and has generated over 80M impressions across social media.
Bleacher Report has been taken a different approach, recently announcing that Champions League matches will be streamed on Bleacher Report Live starting in the 2018-19 season thanks to a new partnership between UEFA and Bleacher Report’s parent company Turner Sports.
“We really believe at Bleacher Report that we can change the perception of sports with the Millennial and Gen Z audience by highlighting these athletes that have such big personalities,” said Kelly.
He draws comparisons between the domestically popular NBA and globally popular sport of soccer because the athletes themselves are huge brands and don’t wear helmets, which boosts their visibility.
“For us, we really want to show these soccer players in the light where these NBA athletes are portrayed. They are big brands. That’s really our take – let’s amplify these players and make them relevant not just internationally but domestically in the States as well,” explained Kelly.
The mutual goal of soccer growth in America suggests a future collaboration between Bayern and Bleacher Report is likely, something Vidal emphasizes.
“Turner Sports has acquired the rights for UEFA Champions League from next season so I have no doubt there will be many more opportunities to collaborate,” said Vidal.