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Marketing Pulisic: Catching up with BVB director Carsten Cramer

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Borussia Dortmund is taking its talents to our shores this summer, and ProSoccerTalk had a chance to speak to the club on its efforts in America and back home in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Pulisic rips up Liverpool ]

Naturally, American fans are very interested in anything Christian Pulisic, and PST is very interested in how a club like BVB goes about marketing one of the first internationally recognizable U.S. teen stars (or at least the first of serious consequence since Landon Donovan).

Near hat tricks market themselves — Pulisic had two goals and played a huge part in the third as Loris Karius parried his shot right to Jacob Bruun Larsen — but there’s plenty more to our discussion with BVB marketing director Carsten Cramer.

ProSoccerTalk: BVB is a gigantic club with a huge fan base already here, but the growing interest of the American market is clearly ripe to become someone’s new favorite club. How do you balance the need to cater to both on a trip like this?

Carsten Cramer: “You described it well and with the right words. We know about the interest of Americans in football generally, and we also know that a club like Borussia Dortmund which is a little bit different from the other big clubs and seems to draw the attention of American people as well. If you know these two characteristics of the American market, it’s a kind of logical consequence that a club like Dortmund which has internationalization as very important for growth, makes a decision to come to the U.S. after traveling three years in a row to Asia. Christian Pulisic is one of the Top 11 in our team. Although we had a difficult season, he played a good one. He’s now 19. He’s at the right age to lead and run this team for the U.S. visit.”

PST: How would you compare traveling to the U.S. with Pulisic to heading to Japan with Shinji Kagawa?

CC: “It’s always good if you have a player from the market. They are definitely a door opener. It’s a kind of similar situation. Christian has become one of the superstars in American soccer and he made his first steps in football, so it might be a little bit different to Shinji Kagawa who had made his first steps in Japan.”

PST: We’re sure the club has seen a bump in interest from American audiences. Is there a way to measure the impact he’s had, especially as BVB battles for new fans?

CC: “We are a powerful club but we are definitely not comparable with the Real Madrids and Manchester Uniteds, so they are even bigger. But we do have very very attractive door opener, who makes it easier to meet people, especially the young generation. In the young generation, football has a higher relevance. If you have one of their generation wearing a black and yellow shirt, it gives us a deeper and more intense impact than without him. We analyze the digital reach, the followers when we present to the American public.

“It’s the frosting on the cake. The cake is always delicious if it’s a black and yellow one, but if you can taste the black and yellow one including Christian Pulisic, it’s an awesome cake.”

Donnerstag 19.07.2018, 1. Fussball – Bundesliga Saison 18/19 – BVB USA-2018 Reise 2, Chicago,
Borussia Dortmund. Credit: Alexander Isak (BVB),

PST: The black and yellow of Dortmund has a bit in common with the sports teams of Pittsburgh, where you’ll play this week. Does the club have a lot of say in where they play as part of the ICC?

CC: “For us it was important when we agreed in the ICC that we play in the more Eastern parts of the states. We started with LAFC for the opening of Banc of California Stadium. Then we said we don’t want to go to the West Coast again and if it would be possible we’d love to go to Chicago because of a big German community and many many Polish people.

“Chicago was naturally seeded, than Charlotte is attractive because there are many German business there. And then they offered Pittsburgh and we said that’s cool because there’s a side of parallelism between the city history of Pittsburgh and Dortmund. Both have an industrial background like steel and coal, and Pittsburgh has the black and yellow, and is not that far from where Christian’s from in Hershey.”

PST: You have another interesting international addition in Jadon Sancho, formerly from Manchester City. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there hasn’t been a British player on Dortmund for some time and it doesn’t happen a ton in the Bundesliga. What does that say?

CC: “He’s the first one from the island we took, but he’s one of many many young players who’s fully convinced that Dortmund is the right club for his stage of their career.

“The reputation we do have is we build stars, we never buy stars. We build them, we make them, we develop them. The education of young talented players is one of the core pieces of Borussia Dortmund.”

“It was not difficult to convince Jadon. After one year of playing for us, he saw he could trust us. He’s a very talented guy and he can commit that the step to Dortmund was the right one. He’s the first one from the UK, but he was one of many Europeans who see they have an opportunity to play for the club.”

PST: This may be a goofy question, but what’s the focus of your job domestically? It doesn’t seem like a historically-big Borussia Dortmund needs to do a ton to prop itself up in Germany, so what’s critical to the marketing of BVB?

CC: “First of all, our core business is football. Marketing is just an appendix. We have a very simple job. We have to clean the window. We have to put in the window what makes people want to open the door and come into the Dortmund store. We have nice talented attractive players. The only job we have is presenting Borussia Dortmund as authentic, as credible as possible. Then marketing is very easy. Don’t tell them an artificial story. Make the players touchable, accessible. Give the people the feeling that we are really interested, that there is no big distance between the supporters and us, and you may have seen when we arrived at the public terminal at the Chicago airport. That’s our marketing. The more people we can attract, the more hearts we can gain, the more successful our marketing activities have been.”

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Girou is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”