Cramer is the Head of Marketing at Borussia Dortmund; one of the most successful football clubs in Germany’s league history. Located in Dortmund, the team boasts one of the largest fan bases in the world. Their online fan shop is currently planning a relaunch, using Shopware 5 as a software basis.
Shopware: Mr. Cramer, according to surveys, BVB currently has the strongest club branding in the German football league. What criteria must be met in order to sustainably build such a strong brand?
Cramer: Expressing this in one sentence is probably a bigger challenge, because sustainable brand management takes several facets into account. A strong standing – from the brand’s own core competencies to the essential building blocks – helps us become oriented. But in the end, it’s about our authenticity and credibility. You cannot go too wrong by simply reflecting on your own true strengths and weaknesses.
Shopware: You are about to grow the BVB brand internationally. What challenges do you encounter? Did you bring back any valuable experience from your tour through Asia?
Cramer: Our Asian tour was an overwhelming experience. The enthusiasm expressed by the fans shows how much responsibility we have to also care after our international community. The biggest challenge is to adapt to the specific needs of different cultures while maintaining the same feeling in every country. But I am confident that we have achieved this at one point or another.
Shopware: Clubs in the German premier league have relatively small advertising budgets compared to other European leagues. Have we missed something in Germany?
Cramer: Our core business is and will remain the sport of football. When we display precision and ambition out on the field, this is already the best advertising for our club. Moreover, this applies when we want to feed into more targeted communicative goals which do not require so much of a high budget, as it may be with other leagues. In the long run, this is because there’s already such a strong association between the brand and football.
Shopware: Branding in football can be difficult due to the fact that success also depends on factors which are nearly impossible to predict – like when a club is having an unsuccessful season. How do you prepare for something like this?
Cramer: This is precisely the reason why we have made brand management a core component of corporate management. It is difficult for a club to make long-term plans when economic development is dependent on the current sporting success. A strong brand acts as a safety net, minimizing this dependency – at least for a short period of time.
Shopware: The opposite is also possible in football, where the trademark forms the club. Take RB Leipzig for example. How do your assess this phenomenon?
Cramer: We steer away from speaking about others – we already have enough on our own plate.
Shopware: How does successful merchandising play a role in your plans? After all, fan products brought in more than 30 million euros last season.
Cramer: Merchandising plays a central role in our plans. This is an important factor not only economically, but is also transfers the Dortmunder pride into our world. Our fans buy our black and yellow products because these items are a clear representation of our club; the more people that do this, all the more proud we become.
Shopware: A rising portion of merchandise sales will take place through the BVB fan shop, which is currently being rebuilt using Shopware as a basis. What do you hope to gain through the relaunch?
Cramer: Up until now we worked with a custom developed system, but this finally reached its limits in several ways. Particularly in regards to the quality of services and ease of usability. But we were also looking for a new way to present our products in the shop, in order to make for a better experience for our customers – we wanted them to both see and feel the products in the fan shop.
Shopware: Is the BVB online shop simply a means to bring in revenue? Or is it understood primarily as a tool for raising brand awareness?
Cramer: I think these are two important factors that must ideally operate in parallel. But it is especially the speed and simplicity that only an online shop can bring, which can carry not only our yellow and black products, but also project the brand image of BVB. We do not want to miss out on any important digital development, so we must constantly improve ourselves in this domain. Although we are a traditional club, we are also one that is progressively entering new areas.
Shopware: In closing, let’s take a look into the crystal ball: where is the BVB brand at the closing of the current season?
Cramer: All theory is grey; decision is made on the field. So we will do our work and see where the journey leads. Without question, we are hugely determined this season - and passionate, just like we've always been.
Here Carsten Cramer is speaking at the 2015 Shopware Community Day - sharing the digital marketing strategy of one of Germany's most successfull football clubs.