European giants Bayern Munich have spoken of their goal to be the world’s leading football club in digital terms.
The Bundesliga outfit held its inaugural hackathon recently which it says is another step in its quest to conquer the digital space.
“About two years ago we finished our project Digital 4.0, where we digitalised our entire infrastructure,” Benjamin Stoll, project manager for digital club platforms at Bayern, told SportTechie.
“The most important thing about digitalisation, for us, is the people involved. We need to change mindsets, we need to be very open to learning. We don’t just need to digitalise our infrastructure, but our entire club.
“I’m often asked, ‘When will your app be finished?’ Or our website. Our new answer is to always say ‘never.’ It will never be ready, there’s always room for improvement.
“Our goal is to be a benchmark in the digitalisation of a soccer club.”
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FC Bayern HackDays saw 220 participants from over 40 countries arrive at the Allianz Arena to compete in seven challenges, six of which were of interest to Bayern’s key sponsors.
The Adidas challenge, for example, saw teams attempt to find ways to increase in-app conversion rates for the official suppliers of the club’s kit, while the Audi challenge placed the focus on ways to make driving to and from the stadium integrate into the fan experience.
The prototypes were then tested out around Bayern’s 4-2 win over Werder Bremen.
“We decided to build it around a football match because it has to be authentic and inspiring,” Stoll said.
“We’re an emotional brand, which makes us distinctive from industry brands doing hackathons. They need prize money to attract clever people, we’re using the emotional power of FC Bayern to attract people.
“[However] we are a football club: our core competence is not hackathons, so we also needed a partner to learn from.”
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The club worked with UnternehmerTUM, a non-profit organisation which aims to boost entrepreneurship in Germany.
“We try to do special hackathons and we do one called TechFest, which is one of the largest hardware hackathons in Europe,” explained Dr. Andreas Liebl, a partner at UnternehmerTUM.
“Sport is an area where the relationship of fans and clubs is very, very intense,” said Dr Andreas Liebl, a partner at UnternehmerTUM.
“It is much more intense than companies and their customers; but the interaction between the two, in terms of co-innovating, is very limited so far.
“If you look at some of the hackathons within sports, such as in the UK, the overall outcome from these, to date was limited.”
Premier League leaders Manchester City have taken the lead in the tech space, having held two hackathons.
“Our wish is for some kind of feedback loop: ideas aren’t created in a bubble. This is a typical practice of sponsors within the sports setting and that’s what we wanted to encourage hackathon participants to also do,” added Dr Liebl.
“FC Bayern are the same: they want to continue with the ideas that come from this event.”
The winners of the entire hackathon were a team called Beat Adidas, which challenged users to complete specific challenges inside an app to earn rewards.
Team leader Christoph Hamsen, a quantum physicist, said: “When we shared the app with people, they used their phone in a very different way.
“We designed it in a way that it uses acceleration sensors so you only have to hold it in your hand.
“You don’t have to look at it and people get feedback on if their jump squat was successful via vibration in the app.”
Bayern have won the last six Bundesliga titles but currently stand third in the table, seven points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and level on points with second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach.