German Basketball Two Points for Telekom

Professional basketball in Germany is receiving a boost from large corporations like Deutsche Telekom and other organizations investing more in the sport. But its popularity is still far behind soccer.
Can Telekom score publicity points with basketball?

Germany’s heart might belong to soccer, but the country’s biggest club, Bayern Munich, has already had a taste of success with its new sporting foray into basketball. The Bavarians are the reigning champions of Germany’s Beko BBL league after funding its team with a record €12 million ($14.9 million) budget.

“FC Bayern is a driving force for us,” said Jan Pommer, the managing director of the Basketball Bundesliga, or federal basketball league. The club has been supporting a basketball team since 2010.

Mr. Pommer would like to see other professional German soccer teams follow FC Bayern and venture into basketball. In 2012, he approached Bundesliga soccer clubs in Hamburg, Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen. But all three declined, even though the annual budget of an average BBL team is only €5 million – less than the salary of a top soccer player.

“There are no indications more clubs will make the leap,” Mr. Pommer told Handelsblatt. “But we’re going to keep the conversation going when and wherever the opportunity presents itself.”

Basketball can really be good for our business and help with customer acquisition. Henning Stiegenroth, Deutsche Telekom’s head of sports marketing

That means the league has to look elsewhere for financial support, if it intends to become a top contender in Europe.

“Our sport can’t just wait politely until someone asks us to dance,” Mr. Pommer said, explaining that he wants to make basketball appealing both as a sport and business. “Investors are extremely welcome if their engagement is serious, long-term and strategic.”

Some investors have already started to play. The current league leader, Alba Berlin, is owned by a waste management company. The family-run business Medico funds the Artland Dragons in the small town of Quakenbrück near Bremen. Telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom has the name rights to Telekom Baskets in Bonn, where it is headquartered.

Originally, the telecom company sponsored the team to show local support local for Bonn, but its ambitions for the sport have grown since.

“Basketball can really be good for our business and help with customer acquisition,” said Henning Stiegenroth, director of sports marketing at Deutsche Telekom.

Deutsche Telekom has secured the broadcast rights through the 2018 season and licensed them to Constantin Medien, which operates the Sport 1 channel, and Axel Springer. The deal gives Deutsche Telekom content and fans the opportunity to see all 350 games live on their smartphones, tablets and computers via the company’s Internet TV package.

While Deutsche Telekom customers can watch free, others have to pay €10 a month.

“Forty thousand users registered in two months,” Mr. Stiegenroth said.

Deutsche Telekom is using basketball to test interactive features with customers and is also developing smart TV apps. The company is investing €5 million in high-definition production of the games.

“Basketball is more attractive for Internet fans than football or handball,” Mr. Stiegenroth said.

The sport, Mr. Pommer noted, reflects a “cool and laidback lifestyle.” About 42 percent of the country’s estimated 16 million basketball fans are between the ages of 14 and 29.

“The new media situation is better than ever before,” Mr. Pommer said.


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Thomas Mersche is a freelance journalist for Handelsblatt. To contact the author: [email protected]