On Tour With FC Bayern: Part III – Follow-Up
Perception and Standing
One of the primary questions our writers had were concerning the perception of the club and experience within the tour in the U.S. While I have somewhat indirectly addressed this in the previous two articles I am going to more directly answer some of these questions here.
Bayern vs Europe
When evaluating Bayern’s standing in the U.S. compared to the English, Spanish and other European teams, I think it is fair to say that they are somewhere in between the first and second tier. The top English sides and the two Spanish giants enjoy far more notoriety and follower-ship in the U.S. market.
Bayern sits just below these teams in terms of followers and general awareness in America. Above the likes of PSG and Juventus for instance. However, I would say the difference generally is that as a percentage, most Bayern supporters I know are more knowledgable and committed than the bigger clubs.
Many of the supporters here that follow those sides tend to be very casual. They watch matches occasionally and when they play in “important” matches, but week to week they probably only check the score and have a general idea of what is happening.
Many of them may only support certain sides because of the players that are currently on their roster. Messi and Ronaldo for instance unquestionably increased the following size of Barcelona and Real Madrid over the last decade in this country.
The Bayern supporters I know however tend to watch and follow every match and are more invested in the club as opposed to individuals. As odd as it may sound to those reading this, supporting Bayern in the U.S. still feels very niche.
Another topic that was frequently brought up was whether people here cared about the local emphasis of the club. In other words, do we care about the Bavarian-ness of Bayern and it’s sponsors…etc?
The simple answer here is that for the most part the supporters here do care about these things. For many, one of the huge draws to Bayern is the feeling of tradition and family surrounding the club. The Mia San Mia philosophy has worked for Bayern more than I think is acknowledged.
Bayern supporters here in the U.S. tend to appreciate the local customs and feeling of Bayern. Buying Bavarian beer and other products helps them to feel more connected to the club. Many members of the fan club own and wear lederhosen to club events. There is a significant portion of every fan club I have been in contact with who have German roots, whether it be that they immigrated from Germany or that their parents or grandparents did.
Again, all of the concentration on German, Bavarian and Munich aspects does resonate with the supporters here. It makes them feel closer to the club. They appreciate that the team focuses on the city, region and familial aspect of the club including the players, ex-players and supporters.
While you may not even be aware of it, we all tend to be supportive of the club engaging and working with the local supporters. We take our cues from the Südkurve and learn about things that are important to you all through your actions. We want the club to take care of you all because we feel as though it improves the club and the atmosphere around the club and thereby reinforces those ideals that draw us to the club in the first place.
Lastly, many wondered about the impact on the general public. Do most people know Bayern are even here? How is the sport growing? Is there a noticable impact on the growth for Bayern specifically?
This is a bit of a mixed bag. I would estimate that the majority of the “sporting” inclined section of society is aware of Bayern (and other European teams) visiting the U.S. Bayern’s second match against Manchester City was broadcast live on ESPN’s main channel. This alone will raise attention to the fact that Bayern are here and playing in the U.S.
It also indirectly increases their profile. How many people care about this though is certainly debatable. Most people with any knowledge what-so-ever will understand what these games are in the grand scheme of things. They are non-competitive exhibition matches that by in large lack for entertainment or energy by the second half.
That lack of competitiveness is a major deterrent to the tour reaching new heights. It also means there is room to grow though. Having the access to the league matches, cups and Champions League so readily available, leaves most fans craving more exciting matches to watch and not just a curiosity.
The growth of the sport here has been huge over the last decade, and even more so over the last two. Having access to regularly watch the sport played at the highest level has really increased its popularity, though it has a very long way to go to even approach the top three sports here in America.
For Bayern specifically, that growth has certainly been noticable over the course of that time as well. When the DC fan club was started in 2011, it was an anomoly and had only a few members. Now there are hundreds of clubs in the U.S. and thousands world wide.
Every summer tour cycle adds to the support base here in the States. It entrenches those who are already supporters further. But where this is really noticable is the cities that host the events.
The inperson experience for these tours is significantly better and more engaging than for those who live outside of those particular areas. I have to admit that even I tend to minimally care about the tours when they don’t visit a city close to us.
Given our proximity to New York, Philadelphia and several other major cities on the Eastern shore of the U.S., most visits inevitably have events relatively close to us. However, I would put very little consideration to the tour or attending the matches if it were held in cities that were not particularly close to me.
This is the feeling for many, though there are some who make the trek from across the country as well for the chance to be a part of these tours. I think for most of us, it largely depends on whether the city in question is also desirable to visit outside of the footballing activities.
So while I do think that the efforts put into the summer tour have paid dividends in terms of growing the clubs’ profile and fanbase, I would also say that this growth probably will start to stagnate a little as the years go by. There is obviously a natural limit of people you will be able to capture after all. However, given the impact that it has on the current fanbase here, I would still maintain that it is an overall worthwhile endevor fo the club in the future.
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Hi Marc, fantastic and unique serie of articles. I know Bayern’s summer tours to the US (and Asia for that matter) are purely for commercial and branding purposes but this is very interesting information giving real insights of “how it works”. I’m always curious to know how Bayern is perceived outside of Germany, and how those foreign fanbase are formed. I my self is an immigrant, living in Europe (not Germany) and I have very litte connection to Germany or Munich in particular, and I’m not sure why I ended up choosing FC Bayern as my club to support, 28 years ago when I was still a kid and Bundesliga broadcasting to my country was non-existent. Perhaps Bayern need to reach broader fan base in the future (e.g. no German connection but still love the football, the Mia san Mia spirit, the German mentality…)?
I imagine the stories of how folks from outside of Germany came to support Bayern are fairly unique and interesting. If there are non German/Austrian staff on this site, their stories would interest me. From my US perspective Bayern fandom is a bit unusual as the premiere league and two spanish giants have the most fandom, but there are a few of us in my area. That said, these fans are needed if Bayern is to stay relevant against monied teams/leagues. I started following after they brought in my favorite player (non German), but Fox and then ESPN television rights really improved things.