Stefan Mennerich is Director of Digital Media and Media Rights and IT at FC Bayern Munich, whose professional football team is the current champion of Europe.
FC Bayern Munich, itself, is one of the most talked-about clubs in world football since this season's arrival of football star-turned-manager Pep Guardiola. The club also recently announced plans to open offices in the US and China.
In this exclusive interview with CMO.com Europe contributing writer Michael Nutley, Mennerich discussed the club's digital strategy, his two main goals for social media, and the marketing challenges that accompany international expansion.
CMO.com: What is the club's approach to digital media?
Mennerich: Our approach is to use digital media not only for communication, which is our most important goal, but also to reach our economic goals, which are internationalisation and brand building, sponsorship, merchandising, and revenues from our TV, our subscription services and so on. And the final goal is CRM.
CMO.com: How does digital fit within the broader communications strategy of the club?
Mennerich: It’s a separate department but very well integrated. Twice a week we have a meeting with our CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and our press officer, Markus Hörwick and we discuss what we should communicate, who should communicate, and how we should communicate. We have a very close relationship between all the responsible departments in order to have one integrated communication strategy.
CMO.com: The goals of your department are quite broad. How do they sit against the other departments of the club?
Mennerich: The digital platforms of Bayern Munich have to serve all the other departments. We sell tickets on our platform, so we serve the ticketing department. We have full integration of our online shop and with that we serve our merchandise department. We are integrated with all our partners so we have a close relationship to our sponsor department. We have this close relationship to our press department. Then we try to help the international department to reach their goals as well.
CMO.com: And how has that philosophy evolved?
Mennerich: When we launched our first website fifteen years ago, all the other departments were on our platform; ticketing, merchandising, sponsorship. We said that we have to be very closely connected to the other departments. And we think this is the best way, that the synergetic effect which we create on our website is a big success.
CMO.com: So you align your success metrics with those of the various departments that you’re working with?
Mennerich: Yes. Our success is not only the page impressions or the unique visitors or the subscribers for our TV. It is very important for our success that the interests of our sponsors are integrated in the website, as is the turnover we have from the e-commerce on the website, from our ticketing and so on. So it’s not only the classic page impressions or unique visitors which we have as a measurement. It’s rather the economic goals of the other departments which are a measurement for our success.
CMO.com: How does social media fit in to the mix?
Mennerich: We use the social media platforms for two goals. The first is is to be closely connected to people all over the world, and to give them good content to make them fans of Bayern Munich. Or, if they are already fans, then to bring them that content in order to have a closer relationship with them. The second is to bring fans to our platforms; website, online shop and so on.
CMO.com: What’s the relationship between the individual clubs in the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga itself in terms of content rights?
Mennerich: We are allowed to show highlights of our Bundesliga matches on our website, as well as Champions League and German Cup, but we are not allowed to show the matches live.
CMO.com: So the bulk of the content that you’re sharing in social media is all non-match content?
Mennerich: Yes. The match content is only on our website. So, on a daily basis, we are creating content introducing our players, showing training sessions, behind-the-scenes content. We have two camera teams here on the training ground every day.
CMO.com: How do you balance the tension between your need for content and the needs of the players to train and prepare for matches?
Mennerich: When Pep Guardiola came at the beginning of the season, we had a long meeting and defined what media is allowed to film. And we said to him that if there’s a situation you’re not fine with us, then tell us and we will leave. There is a very close relationship with him and with all the coaches and the players. This week we were in Moscow for the Champions League match. On the day of the match, the players had a short warm-up session in the hotel, and Guardiola came to us and said, come on and film it, it’s good content for you.
So it’s a partnership between the sports department and us. And as soon as we feel that what we are doing is too much, we leave, because the most important thing is that we win the matches.
CMO.com: The entire Bundesliga, but particularly Bayern Munich, has a huge opportunity to become more successful internationally now. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Mennerich: In the last month, we’ve launched on a lot of new international platforms. For example, we launched on WeChat in China, and on Vcontacts, which is known as the Russian Facebook. And so we try to reach our fans around the world in order to grow, because Bayern Munich is very big in Germany and rather big in Europe, but there’s a gap between some clubs, for example, in Asia. We’re trying to use these platforms in order to close that gap. We do that by producing a lot of content in the language of each country and to deliver it we have moderators who are moderating in the local language.
Users in China expect a different kind of content to Europe, for example. They’re not so focused on the sports results, who took the penalty and who was the last defender. They are more interested in stars and pictures of the stars, and so we bring them that. Our moderators speak in English but we have subtitles in Chinese. We try to meet their expectations in regards of the creation of the content and of the presentation of the content.
CMO.com: So when you go to a new market you look for local talent to take that job on?
Mennerich: Yes. For example, we have been to China three or four times. We had meetings with agencies there and we asked them how to produce our content for the Chinese market.
CMO.com: What are your objectives going forward?
Mennerich: Our plan is to bring more free content on the platforms around the world. We have just started in the US. We are speaking with the big US TV channels and the big US digital platforms in order to deliver content to them, and we hope that they distribute it. The best thing would be if it was for free, because we want to bring our brand to the United States.
Recently we started our new TV show. It's an English-language news show, and we have a new moderator. He’s from the US, and we have this news show on all our digital platforms which are broadcast outside Germany. So everybody can see it, but as English is such an important language, we decided to make the show in English. It’s for the US but people around the world can understand it, and so we have it integrated in all our platforms outside Germany.
Asia is very important as well, and we will try to produce more tailor-made content for each platform. Our goal is to decide which content is good for which country and which platform, and to produce it and to bring it to these channels in the countries we have identified as interesting for us.