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BFW Commentary: A relegated Norwich City made more than Bayern Munich last season — and the Bundesliga’s marketing is to blame.

PL vs Bundesliga — money talk.

SV Werder Bremen v VfB Stuttgart - Bundesliga Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

While BFW has carved a niche for itself with terrific coverage of Bayern Munich, what is undeniable is that we also enjoy talking about the Bundesliga. We love making detours away from the matters of club and talking about the Bundesliga in general — the problems it faces and what potential solutions are worth looking into.

When speaking of the myriad problems the Bundesliga faces, one can think of the teams’ inability to compete in Europe, 50+1’s implementation, and naturally, the lack of marketing that puts the league at a disadvantage, when competing with, say the Premier League or La Liga, that garner more viewership than the Bundesliga.

La Liga has the advantage of hosting Real Madrid and FC Barcelona — two of the most followed sporting teams on the planet. Though they do not market very heavily, they treat themselves as a brand, a source of entertainment and managed to incorporate brands like Puma and Budweiser into the league.

The PL is different from La Liga in the sense that they heavily invest in marketing — the ads on television and most importantly, the way they use Sky Sports to boost viewership. This started off by shifting match times to suit the TV audience and adding several glamour elements to the games. Furthermore, Sky Sports constantly airs news, speculation and transfer rumours generating conversation and increased interest in the game. To top it off, their coverage of the deadline day is second to none.

To put simply, the PL as a product thrives on wise usage of media and sponsors.

Now, let me introduce you to the Bundesliga season 2021-22’s TV revenue. (in euros)

Direct comparisons with the PL are not possible because here’s how things work out there, according to Nick Harris. A compilation of his work can be viewed here.

  • Each club is given an equal share of £79 million from the domestic and overseas TV deals and along with this comes an extra facility fee that is based on how frequent the games are broadcast.
  • After this, the clubs receive £5.6 million out of the league’s combined commercial income.
  • Lastly, there is an extra share of overseas TV rights income known as merit payment — this increases with the club’s position on the table.

If this system applied to the Bundesliga... life would be very different.

To really drill in how huge a difference this makes between the two leagues — Norwich City, the team that placed last (20th) in the league had a total income of £98.6 million (€116.25 million), which is more than what Bayern Munich, the winners of the Bundesliga, made. Let that sink in.

Here’s an overview of the marketing problems the Bundesliga faces.

People like watching stars. (Marco Reus is one of those people too.)

The Bundesliga is marketed as a league filled with incredible youngsters. Even the top brass at clubs think the same. This ESPN article featuring an interview with Mainz 05’s sporting director is an eye-opener. When you realize that even these guys don’t worry too much about viewership, it becomes clear that most clubs are simply comfortable wherever they are at.

The league itself doesn’t invest as heavily in marketing as the PL does either!

The loss of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland will seriously impact viewership numbers as well. You cannot expect similar impact from signing a “PL proven” Sadio Mané either; he is no Lewandowski. The much-talked about rumour that Cristiano Ronaldo might be on his way to Borussia Dortmund is genuinely good for the league, simply because it will increase exposure.

The PL is advertised and subsequently seen as the pinnacle of footballing. Naturally, the blame falls on Bayern Munich’s ‘extreme dominance’ over the league. Does this deter the individual quality of the games? No. If given the option between watching SC Freiburg vs TSG Hoffenheim and Chelsea FC vs Tottenham, I would gladly choose the Freiburg fixture, simply because I’d rather watch more attractive football.

It is high time the marketing execs of the league make drastic changes, because these changes would mean more revenue. It is certain that if given the right amount of money, we could see another Eintracht Frankfurt trailblazing their way through the stages of Europe. The Bundesliga is, by no means, an unmarketable product, albeit a poorly marketed one. The numbers involved remind us of the reality — better marketed football is always preferred over attractive football.

Football as it is meant to be — the Bundesliga’s motto may some day become the world’s opinion of the league and I wait with bated breath to see this.

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