It may be early days for augmented reality, but that hasn’t stopped German football team Bayern Munich from building it into its mobile app.

Fans who download the latest version of the team’s iOS app can use the AR feature to bring either team captain Manuel Neuer or forward Arjen Robben into their selfies. There’s an option to pick which of the club’s three jerseys this season (home, away and UEFA Champions League) Robben wears in the photos as well as a feature to personalize and then screenshot the number and name on the back of one of the jerseys. Fans can buy the personalized jersey directly from the club’s store.

While it’s not a full-blown sales drive, the app’s AR feature is the first step to discovering the technology’s commercial potential, according to Stefan Mennerich, Bayern Munich’s director of media, digital and communications. E-commerce accounts for 50 percent of the club’s annual merchandising turnover, which amounts to €50 million ($58.9 million), he added.

Beyond jersey sales, the club believes sponsorships could also be sold around its app’s AR feature. “We believe that AR could be key for us in the near future,” said Mennerich. “We’re already thinking about the merchandising experience via AR and how that could potentially work with sponsors when it comes to exporting the logos of our partners [to the feature].”

The club’s decision to jump on the AR trend now was triggered by Apple’s iOS 11 update that lets brands add the feature to their apps, which some believe will help push the technology to the masses. Prior to the Apple update, Bayern Munich’s AR efforts were limited, with one early trial allowing fans in its stadium to see exclusive content when they looked at certain parts of the stadium through their smartphone camera.

Fan engagement on mobile, in the stadium and on social media is where Mennerich believes the club will make early strides in AR. Like its approach to social media, Bayern Munich will take its time monetizing AR, instead focusing on how it can help grow the club’s following worldwide. Bayern Munich may be one of the most successful teams in football on the pitch, but off it, the club is noticeably behind its biggest rivals Real Madrid and Manchester United in commercializing its value.

The German club is fifth in the latest Deloitte Football Money League, an annual ranking of the richest teams in the world, while Real Madrid ranks third and Manchester United is first. Unlike those clubs, Bayern Munich doesn’t yet have the fan base to try to quickly turn its digital operations into a revenue generator.

Around 40 percent of the “reach” — Bayern Munich’s label for number of impressions — the club sells to sponsors comes from its online media. Most of that reach to date comes from its social media profiles, though the team is wary of that growing in the future at the expense of traffic to its own platforms.

“The main goal for us is to try to reach as many people as possible,” said Mennerich. “For example, on our Facebook page, 93 percent of our followers are not from Germany. They are from abroad. If those fans don’t like us, then there won’t be any successful commercial activity. The first step is reach and relevance for the club, which is what we’re trying with the app.”

Image courtesy of FC Bayern Munich

  • LinkedIn Icon