Bayern’s digital summer tour set to connect team with Chinese fans, market
‘We are family’
Published: Jul 30, 2020 04:43 PM

Photo: Courtesy of Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich have kicked off a virtual summer tour in Asia to further develop their connection with local fans. The Bundesliga giants have for years been making efforts to build a business network and fan base in the region.

On Saturday, a skyscraper on the Bund in Shanghai turned red, flashing slogans in Chinese such as "We are family" to mark the opening of Bayern's digital summer tour, which will last until August 2. The tour includes events such as online interactions between fans and players, online challenges, and a friendly match with Olympique de Marseille on Friday.

Photo: Courtesy of Bayern Munich

Bayern were scheduled to visit China this summer but their journey was later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials from Bayern told the Global Times that the club would have a positive influence on people who have been affected by the pandemic.

The team have claimed triumphs in the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal and are preparing for their next match on August 7, facing Chelsea in the Champions League.

Chinese fans concerned

The virtual tour includes many ­activities with Chinese features. Thomas Müller took on tongue ­twisters with Alex Hua Tian, a London-based Chinese equestrian sportsman who renounced British citizenship to compete for China in the Olympic Games. Javi Martinez held a surprise video chat with three Chinese fans, including a doctor who had worked in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province during the epidemic.

Photo: Courtesy of Bayern Munich

An offline fan party is also scheduled to be held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province during Bayern's friendly match with Marseille on Friday.

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern's star player, said he has great memories of visiting China in the summer of 2015 when he transferred to Bayern from RB Leipzig for a week. "I was surprised Chinese fans knew me at that time," the 25-year-old told the Global Times in a Wednesday interview, adding that he was impressed by the dedication of fans who waited for them day and night outside their hotel. 

Bayern Munich player Joshua Kimmich Photo: VCG

Jörg Wacker, FC Bayern München AG executive board member for internationalization and strategy, told the Global Times that the nine-day digital tour will contain various localized activities, offering fans opportunities to connect with the team.

He said that China is one of ­Bayern's biggest markets globally. The club will not only "fly to China, have a match and then leave." 

Instead, Bayern want to stay in China through sustainable development. 

The club therefore opened a Chinese office in Shanghai in 2016. 

They have garnered more than 4 million followers on China's Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo.

The team's fan base in China is strong and they have more young fans than other clubs, according to Kaspar. He said that came from hard work to ­provide the best service and easiest access.

Hard times for football

Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the club, Rouven Kasper, Bayern managing director in China and future Bayern president in Asia, told the Global Times that Bayern have been working hard to spread more happiness through social media during periods of isolation.

But from commercial and athletic standpoints, it has been very hard for everybody, he said.

Wacker noted that the pandemic has affected the club's finances, including revenues from TV broadcasts and sponsorships. The club's 13 stores in Germany are closed. "The pandemic is not finished yet. We make plans step by step," he said. 

Kimmich and fellow German national team player Leon Goretzka have together founded a charity, "We Kick Corona," to help those in need during the pandemic. 

"I believe it is really important for football players to join the fight against COVID-19. We want to help people suffering in the pandemic and we want to support the charity," Kimmich told the Global Times.

"As football players, we know that we have a big responsibility to society, so we want to help." 

Euro 2020 has been postponed ­until next summer. Kimmich said that this is a good time for the German football players to take a break and, since the team is young, they will take the opportunity to better develop.

Bayern chairman and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said previously, "As we are unfortunately unable to go on the Audi Summer Tour this year as planned, and as normal for so many years, we have now created this global digital initiative together with our partner Audi, to maintain and nurture the worldwide bond of the FC Bayern family, particularly during this period of the coronavirus pandemic. Our fans across the globe can look forward to exciting content on our platforms."