Bayer 04 Leverkusen is an established force in German soccer that sees a strong future not just in Europe but increasingly in the crowded U.S. sports market.
The club is playing in the Florida Cup in January 2017 for the third year in a row and management believes this is another step towards establishing a foothold in the world’s most competitive marketplace.
The Bundesliga giants recently signed Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (pictured), who is already known in the U.S. due to his Mexican heritage, and launched social media platforms in English and Spanish that have grown tremendously in the past year.
According to Bayer 04 Leverkusen director of marketing/communications, Jochen Rotthaus, there’s no question North America in general and the U.S. market in particular is attractive to his club.
The success of Major League Soccer with 17 teams in the U.S. and three in Canada confirms that the base is real. He told Breitbart Sports: “The U.S. has a fast-growing soccer fan base — so it’s a chance for us to pick up new fans — it’s always an attractive market for sponsors and in this day of nearly 24/7 digital content and social media the U.S. has passionate soccer followers that are very connected and consume a lot of sports content.
“We see more and more opportunities for soccer in the U.S. – therefore we have been part of the Florida Cup for the past two years and will come back in January 2017.”
Mr. Rotthaus uses Chicharito as an example of how a player can drive a fan base in new territory and draw fans through the power of brand recognition.
“Of course, we know from our research and our conversations with experts in the U.S. that many consider Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez to be among the top 2 or 3 most recognized soccer players in the U.S. as a result of the huge Mexican-American soccer fan base.
“He attended this past year’s Florida Cup in January and our Spanish language news platforms like Twitter exploded with followers this past year. We are also very proud of the fact that Bayer 04 has always been a leader in the Bundesliga for developing talent.
“The fact that we had five players recently selected to the German national team mean that any time Bayer 04 is playing in the U.S. or abroad, fans get a glimpse of some of Germany’s best – whether that’s young defender Jonathan Tah, striker JulianBrandt or perhaps goalie Bernd Leno.
“Others that might get noticed in the U.S. are Copa America champion Charles Aranguiz of Chile and Hakan Calhanoglu from Turkey, considered one of the best free kick specialists in the world. Since the the U.S. trip in January will be a more or less regular training camp in order to get prepared for the second half of the Bundesliga season, all of those players will be taking part.”
The 2017 Florida Cup kicks off on January 7 with 14 teams from four federations with the final on January 21. After that the club will continue to push itself onto the global stage with plans to grow and reach further onto the international scene, according to Mr Rotthaus.
“Right now, our focus is really to reach out to people, directly and digitally, in a professional and sustainable way,” he said. “We are seeking to grow our fan base significantly and to tie the people to our brand consistently. We are considering another Asia trip again in the near future. We were there last in 2014.”