Wed, 03/05/23, 14:21
Andreas Jung: We want to go where life is vibrant
FC Bayern's home is in Munich - at the same time, the club has set up shop in New York, Shanghai and Bangkok. We caught up with board member Andreas Jung, chief of staff Moritz Mattes and the three office managers Dee Kundra, Philipp Wunderlich and Maximilian Haschke to talk about the club's special path to internationalisation - in the beer garden at the Nockherberg, of course. Because Bavaria is always at the centre of everything.
The interview with Andreas Jung, Moritz Mattes, Dee Kundra, Philipp Wunderlich and Maximilian Haschke
Herr Jung, eight years ago FC Bayern opened its first overseas office in the USA. Shanghai and Bangkok followed. How has internationalisation developed?
Andreas Jung: "FC Bayern is a strong international brand, and we want to and must do justice to that - even if it is always clear that our roots lie in Bavaria and Munich. It was right to define our first focus markets in the USA and Asia and then proceed step by step. The locations are hotspots: New York, Shanghai, Bangkok - we wanted to go where life is vibrant because it's crucial for us to experience how the fans live the sport locally."
Herr Mattes, three offices, three time zones, plus the headquarters in Munich - how does the cooperation work?
Moritz Mattes: "Logistically, it's a challenge. Säbener Straße is right in the middle. When I look at my watch, I always include the time zones in the USA and Asia. In our case, unfortunately, there's no opportunity to quickly discuss something over a coffee in the corridor. That makes the personal relationship all the more important; it can only work as a team. Every market has different needs, different fans who want to experience football differently. Mutual understanding and knowledge are the key."
„Every market has different needs, different fans who want to experience football differently. Mutual understanding and knowledge are the key."”
In which areas does a region-specific approach need to be taken?Moritz Mattes: "Chinese fans, for example, have a completely different way of living their fandom on social media channels - it starts with the visual language. In general, you always have to take into account that sport is anchored differently in society all over the world. It has always been FC Bayern's credo that we pursue a different strategy than our competitors when it comes to internationalisation. We're not represented in 20 markets with a few employees who try to put the FC Bayern stamp on everything as cheaply as possible. Our strategy is aimed at a long-term commitment: we don't want a quick in-and-out."
Andreas Jung: "In Asia, we experience a high level of emotionality when it comes to football. In the USA, on the other hand, there are already four established top sports, so football is more difficult to position. That's why a lot of hopes are pinned on the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico. Although we recently experienced again on our Audi Summer Tour last year in Washington and Green Bay how football is developing more and more rapidly."
Moritz Mattes: "The challenge is to take FC Bayern as well as all of German football to the world. At this club, the decision was made to approach this task with a long-term strategy. In its international approach, FC Bayern is a pioneer for many others, both nationally and internationally."
Maximilian Haschke: "German football has a lot of catching up to do, we experience that in our daily work. Here in Southeast Asia, for example, the Premier League has an immense edge - if you ask on the street what your favourite club is, you hear Liverpool and Manchester United 90 per cent of the time. But they're very commercial in their activities in the region. Our approach is deeper and broader. We might not win over the older generations in the region to FC Bayern any more - but the goal is to become number one with the younger ones. There's a lot of potential there."
What time is it in Bangkok when the Bundesliga kicks off?
Maximilian Haschke: "If kick-off is at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, it's 8:30 or 9:30 p.m. here, depending on whether it's summer or winter time. It's an hour later in Shanghai. In the Champions League, the games start at two or three in the morning - and I'm always in awe of how many fans still get up. For the recent 4-2 win over Dortmund, people travelled all the way to Bangkok from Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines."
Philipp Wunderlich: "The big challenge for us are the top matches like the one against Dortmund, which usually take place on Saturday evening at 6:30 German time. In China, it's already seven hours later in the winter. And the fact that 300 or 400 people still come speaks for the huge enthusiasm. You can see how important FC Bayern is."
New York is more fortunate in terms of the time difference ...
Dee Kundra: "Normally the games are at 9:30 in the morning on Saturday. The first time I watched a game in the USA with a fan club, it felt like I was in the Allianz Arena: they even sang "Stern des Südens" (Star of the South). FC Bayern has more fan clubs in North America than any other club, and we're there for them round the clock, 24/7, 365 days a year. Word gets around and it resonates. The fans are FC Bayern's greatest brand ambassadors."
Andreas Jung: "In general, we have to be vigilant on the subject of live broadcasts: The truth is that overseas, interest in the Bundesliga is in danger of declining. We have the big problem that we offer significantly fewer different kick-off times than other top European leagues. As a result, we're not able to react to the time difference. When it comes to our offer, the league doesn't approach the fan, he has to come to us if he wants to watch the Bundesliga."
„FC Bayern has more fan clubs in North America than any other club, and we're there for them round the clock, 24/7, 365 days a year. Word gets around and it resonates. The fans are FC Bayern's greatest brand ambassadors.”
Which players are especially popular in your region?
Dee Kundra: "In the US, Alphonso Davies is at the top because he started as a youngster in Major League Soccer. Jamal Musiala is also highly rated because people love young rising stars. But of course, World Cup winners like Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller are also revered. Especially in Latin America, there are lots of FC Bayern fans because they've watched Germany play in World Cup matches. They then followed the players to their club and so became Bayern fans."
Philipp Wunderlich: "In China, Thomas Müller is way out in front: after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he's number three on Chinese social media channels! Thomas is extremely responsive to our Chinese fans. Especially during the culturally important Chinese New Year, he's up for all sorts of fun and sometimes even sings Chinese songs for the fans. China loves him as a footballer and as a character: He's a World Cup winner and has won everything there is to win with Bayern. What the Chinese particularly like is his personality and sense of humour. But above all, like our entire club, he stands for family values and togetherness. That's held in particularly high esteem in China."
Maximilian Haschke: "It's the same with us. Thomas is so authentic. He's been at Bayern since he was a youth player. The fans can identify with him. This family-like character also distinguishes FC Bayern from other clubs. Our job is to convey the "Mia san mia" to the fans - and that's important to the people in Southeast Asia: they're proud that FC Bayern is different. They live this spirit, they stick together in good times and bad. Of course, success is also an important parameter. And you must not underestimate the Germany factor: We're considered reliable, stand for quality and a high sense of responsibility. People transfer all that to FC Bayern as well."
And the fans in Thailand know what "Mia san mia" means?
Maximilian Haschke: "In Southeast Asia, it's crucial to live this awareness with the fans. Our employees all come from the region. They've now internalised "Mia san mia" - and convey it to others."
What fascinates fans in the USA about FC Bayern?
Dee Kundra: "Americans love winning teams. We're also seeing, especially among the younger generation, that they're attracted to clubs that have values similar to their own, such as respect, tolerance and togetherness. And after almost nine years in the USA, people naturally feel that FC Bayern is sincere - and that it has come to stay."
Herr Jung, New York was a big adventure back then, wasn't it?
Andreas Jung: "Yes, but it was also the right step. We've gained invaluable experience there, and now everyone is eagerly awaiting the 2026 World Cup. Interest in football in the States is growing and growing - and we have a big advantage over other international football clubs with our office, because we've built up cooperations like the one with the Kansas City Chiefs and gained entry to a market dominated by American football, basketball, ice hockey and baseball."
The Bangkok office has only been around since last year. Did you have any transferable strategies for the start-up from New York or Shanghai?
Maximilian Haschke: "When it comes to administrative issues such as company registration or recruitment processes, we were able to draw on experience from Shanghai."
Dee Kundra: "Basically, there is no blueprint for internationalisation. No other club operates like FCB in this subject area. That's why we're always challenging each other, learning from each other and permanently developing new impetus from our respective offices."
Philipp Wunderlich: "We work on similar goals in all three offices. The only differences are in the actual practice. What works in Asia doesn't necessarily work in the US - and vice versa."
„Basically, there is no blueprint for internationalisation. No other club operates like FCB in this subject area.”
Herr Mattes, what is your role in the interaction between the three offices?
Moritz Mattes: "I coordinate between New York, Shanghai and Bangkok from Munich and make the essential structural decisions along with the office managers. For example, we'll be moving into a new office in New York soon. In our basic cooperation, we specify the direction at Säbener Straße, but the detailed adaptation to the respective market can only take place in the office on the ground."
Do you get enough sleep when you have to take so many time zones into account?
Moritz Mattes: "I actually don't get much sleep - but that's because I have two small children (smiles). Of course, I also often have very early calls with Shanghai or Bangkok - and sometimes late calls with New York, when my children are already in bed."
When was the moment that FC Bayern became established in the respective regions?
Dee Kundra: "Over the years, we've had many fantastic moments with the fans: we had a watch party in Texas with more than 800 fans, we had 85,000 spectators in Green Bay during the Audi Summer Tour, even during the coronavirus pandemic the bond remained strong, thanks in part to lots of virtual watch parties. But with the 2026 World Cup, the best moments are still ahead of us. And we as FC Bayern are aiming to be firmly established as the number one place to go for football fans in the States from 2027 onwards."
Maximilian Haschke: "We're the youngest of FC Bayern's international offices. For us, the opening on 1 June last year sent shivers down our spines. There was a lot of hype: several hundred guests, a big media presence. We had been working towards that for many months."
Philipp Wunderlich: "I felt the same way when FC Bayern won the Champions League in 2020. We had organised viewing parties in 38 cities all over China - in the middle of the night, at four in the morning. Everyone had to go to work the next day but they still came en masse. And to then see this passion: Most fans here don't speak a word of English, let alone German - but they can sing "Stern des Südens" fluently. Absolutely spine-tingling."
The highlight for the offices is always the Audi Summer Tour. What kind of feedback do you get afterwards?
Dee Kundra: "The tour makes people feel close to their club. After all, they can't fly to the games at the Allianz Arena every week."
Philipp Wunderlich: "There's a saying in China: "It is better to see once than to hear a hundred times". Nothing and no one can replace personal encounters. Claudio Pizarro recently visited Shanghai, and some fans couldn't take a selfie because their hands were shaking so much."
How important are social initiatives? During the tour in the summer, FC Bayern sent out a signal in Washington for the culture of remembrance and against racism.
Dee Kundra: "Sustainability is a central issue in the USA. And the "Reds Against Racism" initiative with a large panel discussion as well as the touring exhibition "Venerated - Persecuted - Forgotten", which we were able to showcase on Capitol Hill, showed people that FC Bayern stands for much more than just football. That's very important, and we must continue on this path. The exhibition also gave us new fans who said, 'I'm Jewish - I didn't know anything about your club's past.' In order to win new fans, it won't be enough in the future for us to be successful in sport - we have to tell our story and make it clear to people that we're aware of our responsibility. That's where FC Bayern is getting a lot of things right."
Maximilian Haschke: "In Asia, for example, people are also very proud of traditions, they value them and celebrate them. That's another reason why FC Bayern is so popular throughout the region: the club stands for strong values, and many fans also know exactly how it's culturally embedded: mountains, beer, traditional Bavarian costume, etc. In our office in Bangkok we have three large wheat beer glasses from Paulaner - and it's the greatest thing for visitors to chase one another with them the way our players do during a title celebration."
„In Asia, for example, people are also very proud of traditions, they value them and celebrate them. That's another reason why FC Bayern is so popular throughout the region: the club stands for strong values, and many fans also know exactly how it's culturally embedded.”
Is it actually your biggest dream to see a player from your region play at the Allianz Arena at some point?
Philipp Wunderlich: "We have four football schools in China looking for the Thomas Müller of China. But it's going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Nevertheless, we've already scouted some very talented players: Bayern signed Liu Shaoziyang as a goalkeeper two years ago. When we announced that, it resonated even more in China than the Champions League win of 2020."
Moritz Mattes: "And the dream of playing at the Allianz Arena is already coming true for many young players through the FC Bayern Youth Cup. With this initiative, FC Bayern gives young people a lot of energy for life. Our offices are also our antennae out there for projects like this, to see what's happening around the world."
How will internationalisation continue at FC Bayern?
Andreas Jung: "There's still a lot of room for growth. Africa, for example, is becoming more and more important. At the World Cup in December, an African team, Morocco, made it to the semi-finals."
Moritz Mattes: "I fully agree with that. And, ultimately, the crucial factor for FC Bayern will always be: We go where the fans are."
Andreas Jung: "I always see internationalisation as an opportunity - it's not a one-way street. We have to be open to new stimuli and willing to learn. Germany rightly places a lot of value on its traditions and on all that has been achieved. But we have to keep pace with the times and the world. Here, interaction with the world is an important part of our social development."
This article appeared (in German) in the current issue of the FC Bayern members' magazine "51":