With an eye on India and South East Asia, Borussia Dortmund looking to sell 'real and tangible' football!

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The Bundesliga club are looking towards new avenues in South East Asia as they look to expand their global footprint....

Borussia Dortmund are, without a doubt, one of the most passionately supported clubs in world football, something which is heavily documented. They boasted an average home attendance of 79,653 last season and the yellow-clad supporters make sure the Signal Iduna Park is always a cauldron of noise. 

But the club is now yearning to expand their footprint all over the globe, with a special focus towards India and South-East Asia. At a time when the financial disparity between the top clubs and their challengers is ever growing, Borussia Dortmund know that emerging markets in Asia are key in boosting the club's revenues. And the club's Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Carsten Cramer has his eye firmly turned towards India

"India is an interesting country for us but we need an authentic and natural connection there," said Cramer at a media interaction organised by Bundesliga and its broadcast partners in India, Star Sports. He went on to reveal that he is set to visit India in June later this year and has already had talks with the All India Football Federation (AIFF). 

"I am flying down to visit to Mumbai and Bengaluru later this year. We have already met the AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das in Dusseldorf earlier this month."

Cramer does not rule out a future tie-up with an Indian Super League (ISL) club. "Maybe we could have a partnership with an ISL club. We will discuss it (friendlies) later with our sponsors. But our approach will be authentic and real.

Borussia Dortmund fans

"Rushing to the country, playing a friendly with the professionals and just dazzling the fans, that's not the Dortmund way," he said. "It's also important for us to fulfil promises to the people on a long-term perspective."

"We are looking for a youth-centric approach in India and the more information we have regarding the market, the better it will be."

Dortmund are not the first club to turn their heads towards India and other South-East Asian countries, with Premier League clubs enjoying significant support in the region. Though Cramer acknowledges his task is tough, he is banking on Dortmund's authentic and unique selling point. 

"Our popularity may be lower but we have to do something to increase it. I'm trying to sell real and tangible emotions. We have a humble and authentic approach that Asian people like. We want to make stories, not money. We want to reach the people." 

"Most of the big Chinese clubs wanted partnerships with the best clubs and we know we are not the benchmark in German football. So we went to Shandong Luneng who had history and an interest in youth system that made sense to us.

"We don't look for big clubs. We look for Dortmund-like niches which have people who value our approach. We are not trying to overtake anyone but we are trying to raise our own story." 

In fact, Dortmund have entered into partnerships in Malaysia with Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) and Singapore's Warriors FC, with Cramer describing both clubs as belonging to that niche. "Football is more than just winning titles. JDT was a better fit for us in Malaysia and in Singapore, we got along with Warriors FC." 

Shinji Kagawa Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund already have a good presence in Japan after they scouted Shinji Kagawa from then second division Japanese club Cerezo Osaka back in 2010. While youth development and recruitment is one of Dortmund's major strategies in Asia, Cramer insists the club does not sign players with a commercial eye. 

"We are not a marketing club and are not looking for investors. We are a football club and we want partners. Premier League clubs are commercially-driven unlike us. Our money is generated by ourselves. That is our way.

"We don't buy a player unless he is talented. We don't do it for marketing purposes."

Cramer goes on to suggest that Dortmund are not averse to starting an academy in India but they would do so only if it had the potential to work and not as a publicity stunt. 

"Our approach is simple. We started our ventures in South-East Asia with grassroots initiatives. But for us to start, it has to work. We don't want to start an academy, put a flag and say we have reached that country. We want to make it work. We started in Japan and we got Kagawa. Then we went to Singapore, China and also the USA where we got Christian Pulisic. 

So how does BVB compete with bigger clubs who have a bigger reach in these regions? 

"Our strategy is a 'bottoms-up' one which starts from the grassroots. We charge lower money and have a humble and devout approach which is well accepted in Asian markets," Cramer answers. 

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"It is not important to be the first one in a market because the Dortmund story is unique. We nearly went bankrupt 13 years ago and now here we are, having won the league twice and reached the finals of the Champions League. We have to be as credible as possible.

"We try to love the game and bring people closer to it. Our average ticket prices are only €20 and we try to make matchdays a party for our fans. People are our main concern." 

"We are crazy people and a cool club," Cramer signs off.