Last week, a press briefing was held in Beijing in the Bird Nest Culture Centre, announcing the visit of three world famous football teams to China in the coming summer to play in the 2016 International Champions Cup China. Borussia Dortmund is one of the teams. It will be the first visit of the club to China, which makes it very special considering that the club has had many successes in some other Southeast Asian markets.
Dortmund’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr Carsten Cramer, also attended this press briefing in the capital city with other officers and the ambassador Michel Riedel.
In his talk with journalists from Yutang Sports, we could see Mr Cramer has a very good feeling of the Chinese market and hopes to bring the team’s spirit and passion to more Chinese football fans. Likewise, we hope Borussia Dortmund could have great market presence and more fans in China.
YT=Yutang Sports CC= Mr Carsten Cramer
YT: First of all, welcome to China, Mr Cramer. As we know, Dortmund has developed very well in Japan and in Southeast Asia, do you have some plans for the Chinese market?
CC: Yes, it’s two years ago we made the decision to go east from Germany, and not to go west, so we are very convinced that Asia is the right place to be. As you mentioned, after the very successful experience in Southeast Asia and Japan, it was the logical next step and after receiving the invitation by this tournament, and to play two games against two Manchester clubs, we couldn’t say no. Therefore we are really glad to receive the invitation, we are looking forward to get in a closer connection with the Chinese people. As my colleague from Manchester United said, because the digital world, we are more connected to your country, we will open more digital channels, like WeChat and other activities. And I am very sure that especially in summer people will be interested in Borussia Dortmund.
YT: Do you have a plan to set up an office in China?
CC: Yes, we are thinking how to do it. We want to collect experience this summer. It can be an option, but it must be an option. We are open-minded, we are discussing internally. Right now, I would say it is a 50/50 chance.
YT: Dortmund has one of the most beautiful fans in the World, we all know the Tifo on the “Yellow wall”. I have seen that the club’s slogan is “Echte Liebe” which means True love. And recently there was a tragedy during the home match, one of your fans died because of heart attack, and the most important is that the other fans mourned for him spontaneously, including the fans of your opponent. This was so touching. How did the club build and maintain such a successful harmony and relationship with fans?
CC: I can give you a very easy answer: we love football, and we are a football club, not a business company, not a marketing machine. So we love the sport, as long as we know that people love the sport as well, I am very sure that we can maintain it. The people do spend more than money, they gave us their heart, the connection between the club and people take place between the heart and the legs, and this is a very deep loyalty, which is very very important for our club, and we care about this, we know about the deep relationship between the supporters and the club, as long as we estimate the value of this relationship, there is no doubt that this will maintain.
YT: Could you give some advices for our clubs in China in order to build a remarkable relationship with their fans just like yours?
CC: I hate to give advices, because it sounds like a teacher. I can just talk about my club and about the way we do it. I think it’s helpful that your government made the decision that football is very important, that you will educate young people. And the more the kids the young men will love and play football, the more connected the sports will be in between your society. But this is not an advice. This is more or less a kind of experience.
YT: Yes, there are many Chinese football clubs who want to build a solid relationship between the supporters and the clubs like yours now. Do you think that we have to find a better way, or an easier way for us?
CC: It is difficult. We have a huge advantage that we are more than 100 years old. And you know it better than me how important the history is, and how important the tradition is. To be a club with such a tradition, it is really helpful to create a deep connection between the supporters and the clubs. I think time will be your best friend. The longer the relation between the club and the supporters exist, the deeper it will be.
YT: Do you have any plans for building some youth academy in China in the future?
CC: We have some ideas, but we did not finalize them. Because your country is so huge, we have to collect all the experiences. I am very sure our tour in summer will help us to develop next steps. But of course we are interested in kids, in young players.
YT: And also will you recruit any Chinese players in your team?
CC: We are watching the Chinese market, and other Asian markets as well. The more young kids will be educated in your country, the higher the probability will be that some young players might come to Germany as well. But we will never do it for marketing reason. We just would do it if the player would be really talented. We are a football club, not a marketing club.
YT: Any special expectation for the social media in China?
CC: The only expectation we do have is that we will be able to interest the Chinese people for Borussia Dortmund, and that we will be able to transfer the “Real Love” From Dortmund to China. We will show the people how intense the football experience in Dortmund is. Therefore we are glad we have the opportunity to use the digital world in order to bring the “Real Love” to China. And we know that people are interested and open-minded.
YT: The Chinese clubs need more professional talents nowadays. In the meantime, there are more and more young men who want to get into a club. What are the principles that Dortmund used when you recruit? And what are the characters that you appreciate the most for the applicant? Could you share to us a few experiences for our club on this side?
CC: To be passionate, to be open-minded, to be flexible, to be interested. This is the most important, the rest you can learn. You have to be interested. For us, as long as you are open-minded, creative, and enthusiastic, you are always the guy who will be the right one for Borussia Dortmund. You have to love football. If this works, you are the right guy for Borussia Dortmund.
YT: Let’s go back to the sports level. Recently there are the rumors that some Dortmund players might transfer to other clubs this summer, like Reus, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan etc. What did you do in order to prevent this?
CC: First of all, it is a good signal that these players are interested. The more they are interested, the better we are. We are prepared, because we are a football club, the story we can tell is not only the money story. But of course we paid good salary as well, and we tried to convince the players that it makes more sense for them to play in Dortmund than for any other clubs. For example, Reus has signed a new contract. Aubameyang just extended his contract to 2019. I am sure that there are many stories which are able to help and convince our players to stay in Dortmund. They love to play for 80 000 spectators, they love to play in front of the “ Yellow wall ”, they get good money as well, so there is no real reason to leave.
YT: This year is the first year that Dortmund will come to China. Will you come to China for more times?
CC: Whatever we do has to be sustainable. So if we made the first step, the second and the third will follow. It is not only to play a game, to say hello and goodbye. We made the decision that Asia is a very important region for us. If you talk about Asia, you have to talk about China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. And making the decision to come to China, definitely we will come back again, but also to develop other sustainable relation maybe to build a football academy. We have a huge sponsor HUAWEI who are based in Beijing and Shenzhen. And our main sponsor EVONIK has a headquarter in Shanghai, so there is so many connecting points, that is not only a single visit, and we want to build a sustainable relation, that means we have to come back, we love to come back.