Fan Engagement Goes Virtual

In recent times, pre-season - for most elite European teams, has involved a lucrative overseas tour to America or Asia. These tours have become a staple of the globalised sporting product as we know it. For the clubs involved, they are an essential sponsor-pleasing, brand-building, and revenue-generating exercise. However, delays to the season and travel restrictions have ruled out such an occasion happening this year.

As a result, many clubs need to find new ways to engage with their overseas fan-bases.Both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munichhave announced plans to instead go on a ‘virtual summer tour’. The BVB Virtual Asia Tour, for instance, will aim to reach fans in key markets through a series of alternative activations. “Asian fans will have the opportunity to virtually meet players and watch livestreams of training sessions, while legend appearances and a BVB Evonik Soccer Academy will engage supporters on location.”

And this isn’t Dortmund’s first attempt to engage with fans in the Asian market digitally. BVB were one of the early movers in lockdown, launching adigital fan viewing partyin March, that attracted 2.9m viewers. Since then, Chelsea, Juventus, andTottenham Hotspurhave followed suit, airing studio shows on Chinese platforms such as Weibo, Douyin, and WeChat.  

As the return of the Bundesliga offered a blueprint for other leagues to follow, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich’s virtual tourscould provide inspiration for other major clubs, too. The pandemic is likely to have lasting effects on travel habits, and this could also mean a contraction of the globalisation of football for years to come. 

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