Currently in its 58th season, the German Bundesliga has been a growing force since its inception in 1963. As the largest soccer league in the world in terms of average attendance, it is only topped by the National Football League. And yet football (the soccer kind) has been waves in Germany as it pertains to its American audience.
There are many U.S. parallels that permeate throughout the league. Historically, the country housed a large American military presence in lieu of WWII that remained throughout the end of the Cold War. This, coupled with an ease-of-access to securing a worker's permit for those abroad, has led to an influx of young American talent showcasing their skills in Germany's top league. And with new talent comes new viewers. With interest in soccer, and specifically American soccer, at an all-time high, domestic viewers have flocked to watching Bundesliga matchdays. Coverage has only increased as ESPN's deal with the league has seen the Worldwide Leaders in Sports provide heightened analysis and coverage ahead of critical matchups.
Which brings us to today. Talented North American players and a bolstered TV deal doesn't mean this would influence clubs and the kit sponsorship deals that they strike. And yet, let's take a look:
The sponsorship categories are well-balanced here with no category holding more than four clubs. The largest category, "Food & Drink", consists entirely of companies from the Bavarian region.
A few key takeaways here:
Of the following clubs, only one holds a kit sponsor that is headquartered in the United States (Eintracht Frankfurt & indeed.com
A few clubs tap into larger global brands that hold a sizable presence within the United States.
In addition to indeed, T-Mobile (Bayern Munich), SAP (1899 Hoffenheim), Red Bull (RB Leipzig), Mercedes-Benz (VFB Stuttgart), and Volkswagen (VFL Wofsburg) operate regional locations within the United States
Speaking of T-Mobile, the telecommunication giant's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, have been the kit sponsors for Bayern Munich since 2002. Since then, the German giants have absolutely dominated the table having finished outside of the top three only once during that span. Currently, they are looking to extend their reign as Bundesliga champions to a 9th consecutive season.
The Bavarian powerhouse receive additional exposure in the United States through two additional mediums.
The first: Bayern Munich are regulars within the UEFA Champions League, often going deep into the competition. As reigning champions, they provided plenty of must-see moments for a worldwide audience.
The second: The growth of the Bundesliga has led to additional traction for US focused content. Bayern Munich, as well as Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, and Schalke, are amongst a contingent of Bundesliga clubs that garner interest and generate content for the American public
Many clubs feature marquee USMNTT players that feature regularly for both club and the Stars & Stripes. With these players highlighted, the kit sponsors are bound to get an international boost in exposure:
The list includes:
Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, 1&1 Ionos)
Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen, Wiesenhof)
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, Red Bull)
John Brooks (VFL Wolfsburg, Volkswagen)
Chris Richards (1899 Hoffenheim, SAP)
Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04, Gazprom)
Hertha BSC signed on brokerage company Homeday just before the start of 2021. The partnership will continue through at least June 2024.
Overall, Bundesliga kit sponsorships do not directly target American audiences. Yet, the added value from increased coverage and breakout American performances lend for additional exposure for kit sponsors on a more global stage.
Max Simpson contributes a variety of content to The Sponsorship Space, covering areas such as experiential marketing, activation analysis, and illustrating the "why" behind interesting partnerships.