It is clear that Bayern Munich are the tops in the Bundesliga both on and off the field. Yet who is behind them trying to get a piece of the big marketing pie in the league reveals a few surprises.
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Bayern Munich have the league cornered. The club led by coach Felix Magath sit atop the league after eight match days but the competition is hot on their heels -- Hamburg, Bremen and Schalke look to dethrone the champions.
Where the "dwarves" -- this would naturally be taken with great offense by fans -- will have more difficulties is the marketing area. Prestige and success pay off and companies want to be associated with the sports teams that can consistently bring home the championship, win the country's cup, and even occasionally rise to the top and beat the best teams in Europe.
Bayern Munich do this on a consistent basis and receive the spoils for their hard work. Now a study by the Frankfurt-based Horizont Sport Business publishing house show that in extremely clear terms -- nobody does it better in German soccer than the Bavarians. They asked 13 experts in the fields of sports marketing, media, sponsoring and sports agents to take a close look at the 18 Bundesliga clubs and pass judgment on each side's market value.
Bayern winner in seven categories
The jury members were asked to judge in categories such as sporting rights, marketing, brand value, media appearance and sponsoring. The name at the top in seven categories of eight categories was Bayern Munich. The only category that the Bundesliga's strongest club had to play second-fiddle in was that of location which went to the Hertha Berlin.
Nevertheless, the jurors don't think that Bayern's management are taking advantage of their position optimally.
Thomas Röttgermann, president of the sports marketing agency Sportfive recognized an "unsatisfactory position on the European market" for Germany's most successful soccer club.
Bayern Munich's Michael Ballack (l)and friends are worth their weight in gold for the club, the marketing giant in the Bundesliga
It is obvious that the remaining 17 Bundesliga clubs must play catch up with their south German rivals, something that Hamburg SV clearly managed to do in the past year, making a clear move towards the top and landing on the third spot in the rankings. Last season, they were seventh.
The team's management is young and has watched the team make an abrupt turnaround with the hiring of coach Thomas Doll last autumn. Riding a 19-game streak since last season without a defeat, Hamburg have been named as the strongest challengers to Bayern in the 2005-06 season. The jurors judged the "consistent work in management and image of the brand name" as particularly noteworthy.
"HSV has improved its marketing profile and strategic decisions are bearing fruit," said Jens Krüger, sponsoring director at TNS Sport.
The eternal bridesmaid: Schalke
Coming second in the survey were the Royal Blues from Schalke. The team from the Ruhr Valley, whose explicit goal it has been for years to finally win a Bundesliga title, wants to shed the image of the eternal bridesmaid. Club manager Rudi Assauer, who has never been one to mince words with Bayern's management, still believes that championship will come.
Club manager Rudi Assauer (r) and his pride and joy, the Arena AufSchalke
His work since taking over in 1993 has hardly been topped anywhere else. According to a poll that the cigar-smoking manager had read, Schalke is the most-beloved team in Germany -- outside of Bavaria naturally.
"The title that was stolen from us (in 2001 when Bayern scored a goal in injury time to beat Hamburg) gave us a huge push to the top," Assauer told Sport-Bild magazine. "All those who were just a little neutral, became Schalke fans."
Surprising promoted sides
The consistent relegations and promotions of FC Cologne in the past decade have hardly taken away from the club's appeal. They came in seventh in the rankings. Hometown German international striker Lukas Podolski catapulted the team back into the top division and he has a magnetic attraction that brings fans to the Rhein Energie Stadium. The former all-purpose facility, the former Müngersdorfer Stadium, underwent a total makeover that transformed it into a pure soccer stadium and is one of the top locations to watch German soccer.
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Another club that just returned to the first league, Eintracht Frankfurt, came in 10th. The central German club has never won a Bundesliga title, and its sole German championship came in 1959, nevertheless feels that it has a proud history of achievements that deserves to put on display like Bayern Munich's.
After the 2006 World Cup, it intends to open a club museum at the team's stadium. Visitors will be able to view Frankfurt's 1980 UEFA Cup trophy or its four German Cup successes. Quite possibly the item that will literally stick out the most will be 1936 Olympic champion Tilly Fleischer's spear. She won that as a member in the club's track and field department.