FC Bayern was at one time one of the most popular European soccer clubs in the United States. That was before the sport and particularly the European club game exploded in popularity. Bayern’s last visit to the United States was in 2004. The Bundesliga club has visited China and India more recently than the USA.
The Bavarian giants have established themselves in recent years as arguably the biggest footballing power on the European continent. Yet because of the surge in popularity of the Premier League in the US, including a record TV rights deal with NBC, Bayern’s growth has been stunted. The Bundesliga’s TV deal with GolTV has limited the exposure that Bayern has enjoyed in the States, with many newer American fans exposure to the club limited to appearances in the UEFA Champions League against popular English and Spanish clubs.
But all that is about to change.
FOX Sports has acquired the US media rights to the Bundesliga for 2015-20. Plus, Bayern have announced that they’ll play in the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, scheduled for late July or early August.
The club and Bundesliga are playing catchup to win fans in the emerging American market. Despite arguably sporting the most technically gifted and competitive major European league, the Bundesliga continues to appeal mostly to a niche audience of die-hards and German ex-pats in the United States.
Perhaps some of the failings of the Bundesliga have to do with the lack of perceived star power, despite Germany’s impressive international soccer footprint. Oftentimes it seems German players get more recognition in the United States when they leave German clubs and join either Real Madrid or one of the top English clubs. This condition of course ignores the very real star quality the Bundesliga has, especially with so many South American stars in the league. Hispanics represent the fastest growing demographic in the United States and that demographic is represented by many nationalities who are developing in the Bundesliga. Still this has not grown the interest in the league and in Bayern within the United States when compared to the other top European sides.
Bayern will become the first German club to participate in the mid-summer MLS All-Star Game. Last week, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge outlined how the American market is important to the growth of the Munich based club’s brand.
“We are discussing to go to the U.S. for a week and add one or two games,” Rummenigge said. “The DFL takes great interest that we head over to the States.”
Beginning in 2015, the Bundesliga will be featured on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 giving the league a wider potential audience than any European domestic league outside of the Premier League. Plus Bayern are planning on opening an office in New York.
As Bayern moves towards that noteworthy moment when the German league could explode in popularity Stateside, they are prepared to leverage their brand accordingly.