The United States has proved difficult for football to break into. While Major League Soccer continues to see growth, it still trails the market’s four biggest sports: ice hockey, basketball, baseball and American football. Yet MLS attendance grew by 104% between 2008 and 2017, a greater increase than in any of the top four sports leagues, which highlights the untapped potential of football in the US. This, along with the success of current American players in the Bundesliga, such as Christian Pulisic (see photo, left), Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie (see photo, right), John Anthony Brooks and Josh Sargent – five players who are leading the USMNT to the 2022 World Cup – presents a great opportunity for the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga, which has begun to strategically develop initiatives to grow the league within the American market.
DFL CEO Christian Seifert explains: ‘The USA is the biggest and most important sports and media market in the world. Therefore, it is only logical for the DFL to strengthen its representation here in the interest of our long-term growth perspectives.’
The potential for the growth of German football in the US is clear. The US market is made up of 170 million sports fans with an average salary of more than $50,000, of whom 95% enjoy watching sports at home. The Bundesliga’s previous TV contract in the US made the league available in only 13 million households. However, a new deal with Fox in 2015 made it accessible to 85 million households, massively increasing its reach.
The DFL aims to benefit on this by offering Americans a unique Bundesliga experience. Fittingly, the prestigious Harvard Business School (HBS) chose the DFL as the subject of a case study report, titled Bundesliga in the U.S., which documents the DFL’s approach and the positive attention that it is receiving in the US market.
The Harvard Business School study points out several observations made by the DFL that influenced its approach to the US market. It notes that US fans:
* Prefer highlights over live events
* Want content in both English and Spanish
* Want to learn more about the Bundesliga
* Enjoy watching in groups and engaging in discussions
* Enjoy keeping track of their favourite players
* Regularly view sports-related content on-demand
* Use analytics apps to get statistics on teams and players
* Are highly likely to be interested in e-sports
The DFL recognised that Americans consume sports differently to Europeans despite all English-speaking markets having previously received the same broadcast of the Bundesliga. As parts of the media production process were outsourced, it proved difficult to deliver a customised solution for each market. However, while other leagues continue to rely on external providers, the DFL has developed a unique, in-house approach to media production. The DFL Group is now made up of many companies, each designed to serve a specific purpose within the value chain, such as broadcasting, production (Sportcast), sales, licensing (Bundesliga International) and digital content (DFL Digital Sports).
By bringing each process in-house, the DFL has ensured that all of its subsidiaries are working together efficiently to create the right package for each market. Robert Klein, CEO of the DFL subsidiary Bundesliga International, says: ‘The unique bit is that this set-up is fully owned and operated by the DFL. Every single subsidiary of the DFL is within the group and therefore is pulling in the same direction.’ The Harvard Business School study notes that by covering the entirety of the value chain, clear improvements in product quality and innovation can be made. The DFL now offers its partners a clear advantage over their competitors. The partners gain access not only to the Bundesliga’s top-level competition, but also to high quality, innovative production capabilities that are proven to deliver results. By in-sourcing production, the DFL has made itself more flexible to the demands of its partners and, in turn, can offer a more reliable product that meets more of the market’s needs.
Follow this link to purchase the case study: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=55251