One Hour to Kickoff
Within the National Stadium of Singapore, the stands are slowly starting to fill. Soccer fans from the southeast Asian city-state, a large number of expats, and vacationing families from England and Germany are gazing out across the modern arena, just waiting for the game to begin. Thanks to the color of their jerseys, it’s easy to tell which of them are fans of Chelsea FC (blue) or FC Bayern Munich (red).
Among the fans is one Abhyudid Dev. Dev, as his friends call him for simplicity’s sake, says that he must have been around eight when he watched a soccer match on television for the first time back home in India. One of the teams that took the field that day was wearing “these nice red shirts” – and with that, a young Indian boy became a fan of FC Bayern Munich.
Today, Dev lives in Singapore, where he just finished an internship for SAP in the Industry Value Engineering Team. When he heard that the German champions would be making a stop in the country on its tour of Asia, it quickly dawned on him that he was going to see his favorite club live and in living color in the International Champions Cup.
Dev’s luck was just beginning, as it turns out: In a contest to find the biggest FC Bayern fan among SAP’s employees in Singapore, Dev won tickets to the big game.
30 Minutes to Go
The teams enter the stadium: first Chelsea, then Bayern a few minutes later. Dev makes his way down to the lowest row of seats, but the covered running track and stewards prevent him from getting up close and personal with the stars. Still, he finds it “super exciting” to watch as Franck Ribéry warms up with a few slick ball tricks and the newly acquired James Rodriguez coolly drives a ball home from the penalty area.
Just as club president Uli Hoeneß and executive board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge embody FC Bayern, Dev represents the people the club wants to reach besides their fans in Germany: young, enthusiastic supporters in Asia and other regions around the world.
This is a club and company that always plays in front of a packed house in Munich; is backed by more registered members than any other German club; and starts every season with the goal to win championships. Therefore, “internationalization is the only way forward,” says Jörg Wacker, who oversees this subject as a member of Bayern’s executive board. “If you’re not actively establishing an international position today, you might not be able to keep up with the best tomorrow,” Wacker recently also stated in an interview with the Munich newspaper tz.
Selling jerseys and scarves to fans in Singapore, Shanghai, and Atlanta is obviously one of FC Bayern’s goals. Even more important, however, is building a global brand that sparks global interest from potential advertising partners. As Wacker explains, this “isn’t just about gaining new partners abroad, but offering more to those we’re already working with, as well.” He cites achieving a high level of global outreach on the club’s digital channels as an example.
“The stronger the FC Bayern brand is, the more our partners are willing to pay for it, the higher our merchandising proceeds are, and the more the club earns in the form of international TV revenues,” Wacker points out.
The Match Begins
Just 12 minutes later, Bayern have jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Needless to say, Dev is happy: Not many would have predicted such a positive start following the club’s defeats to Arsenal and AC Milan in China.
In one of the stadium’s boxes, Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, are similarly pleased with the team’s strong initial showing. Joining them are Stefan Mennerich, the club’s director of media and digital strategy; and Stefan Wagner, general manager for sports and entertainment at SAP. FC Bayern Munich and SAP have been official technology partners since 2014. “Here, you have two organizations working together that are leaders in their respective fields,” says Stefan Wagner.
Rummenigge agrees: “SAP has the technology helping us accomplish three of our main goals: optimizing business processes to facilitate our global expansion, helping our team stay fit and perform at the highest level, and giving our fans the best possible experience.”
This year, FC Bayern plans to start using the SAP Sports One solution for scouting. For SAP, the partnership comes with opportunities to advance its offerings based on “FC Bayern’s insights as a global sports club,” as Wagner puts it.
For the most part, however, it’s the Munich natives who rely on the business expertise they receive from Walldorf to stay competitive in the hotly contested global market, particularly against English and Spanish clubs. “This is where we’re providing a full range of experience that’s making the club’s internationalization possible in the first place,” Wagner reveals.
“Digitalization is very important for our future if we want to compete against big clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Manchester City,” adds Stefan Mennerich.
Here, FC Bayern “needs scalable systems,” says club CIO Michael Fichtner. Among other advancements, such systems will make it possible to meet global fan demand for specific jerseys, initiate global marketing campaigns, and deal with a deluge of fan feedback that continues to grow every day.
IT Infrastructure from a Single Source
FC Bayern Munich has been using SAP software since 1997. After the two organizations announced their new partnership in August 2014, SAP conducted an in-depth analysis of the club’s system landscape. Over the years, FC Bayern had accumulated 52 non-SAP systems that were only partially interconnected; a similar lack of integration was found in its fan and customer data, along with master data redundancies and inconsistencies.
“Our IT landscape had gradually come to include too many isolated solutions,” Stefan Mennerich recalls. “We’d gotten to the point where we needed to get rid of some of that complexity.”
By November 2014 – just 11 weeks later – FC Bayern had already migrated its SAP solutions to SAP HANA and installed SAP CRM. “Since moving to SAP HANA, we’ve seen performance gains of 70% in SAP ERP and 80% in SAP Business Warehouse,” reports CIO Michael Fichtner.
Further solutions then followed, including SAP Process Orchestration (October 2015), which serves as a basis for Bayern’s “connected stadium” experience; and SAP Hybris Marketing and SAP Hybris Commerce (April 2016), two solutions FC Bayern now uses to run its fan shop and marketing campaigns.
The “Digital 4.0” project, as this full-scale digital transformation is known within the club, has integrated all of FC Bayern’s user data and applications. Since July 2016, its software – including everything from back-office solutions to the front ends of its website, mobile apps, and online store – has been hosted at the club’s own data center.
The Referee’s Whistle Signals the End of the First Half
With the Germans now up 3-0, Dev and his fellow fans have seen the Bayern players show decidedly more pep in their step than their English counterparts. For Dev, it’s time to take a quick look at the official FC Bayern app. With match reports, videos, social media, and a direct link to the club’s fan shop (available in German, English, and Chinese), the halftime lull is now a thing of the past. While Dev could already order the number 11 jersey of aforementioned Colombian star James Rodriguez, whom FC Bayern snapped up just days before, his favorite player – Thomas Müller – wears number 25.
FC Bayern is producing more and more content designed to drive its outreach on a growing number of international platforms, as Stefan Mennerich explains. There’s YouTube, Instagram, and WeChat, for example, and the club’s own website (including FCBayern.tv) is produced in eight languages – including the Bavarian dialect.
“We can release different content for Japanese users who are on their phones in the morning and Brazilians working on their laptops around noon,” Mennerich adds. “Short texts, longer articles, some with videos, some without – and all of it is contextualized based on each user’s situation.”
At the foundation of all these activities is the IT infrastructure provided by SAP. “We’re helping FC Bayern collect data and use it,” Stefan Wagner offers in summary.
For Stefan Mennerich, digitalization represents “the best opportunity for a club with strong regional roots like FC Bayern to reach out to the rest of the world.” It also enables FC Bayern to “offer the best user experience possible and achieve a global brand presence,” Mennerich says. “We’re going to gain even more fans around the world and keep them in the fold for years to come. That’s why there’s no substitute for going digital.”
Right now, FC Bayern is bringing in between 30 and 40% of its sponsoring revenues through digital channels, and around half of its merchandising proceeds are generated through its online store. For Mennerich, this is just the beginning. “We’re expecting more strong growth in those areas, but it’s going to require state-of-the-art technology,” he points out.
The some 6.5 million unique visits to fcbayern.com and the club’s more than 40 million fans on Facebook – both figures that show no signs of slowing down – serve as proof that FC Bayern’s digital strategy is bearing fruit.
Brand value has also increased. According to a study performed by the auditors at KPMG, FC Bayern is now valued at €2.4 billion, up from €2.2 billion since just last year. That puts the club fourth in the world behind Manchester United (€3.1 billion), Real Madrid (€3.0 billion), and FC Barcelona (€2.8 billion). In the words of Andrea Sartori, global head of sports at KPMG and the author of the study, “internationalization of commercial operations, investments in modern infrastructure, and more sustainable management practices in general” were factored into the ranking.
The Referee Calls Full-Time
Chelsea may have found their rhythm and scored twice in the second half, but Bavaria’s finest hold on to win, 3-2. For Dev, watching his favorite team win has been a real treat.
Later, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressed his satisfaction with how the tour went on the whole. “We fully achieved all the goals we set for ourselves. The theme of the trip was Visiting Friends: That meant making the journey to our fans in Asia, giving them the chance to interact with the team, and establishing business and political relationships in an important part of the world. We accomplished all these things. It was a fantastic trip – a total success,” Rummenigge declared.
Anyone who witnessed how people in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Singapore cheered the club on will agree that the tour was indeed a coup, one that has likely added quite a few FC Bayern fans to the more than 600 million sympathizers around the world. Dev, meanwhile, can rest easy knowing that he definitely chose the right team.