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Report: RB Leipzig is coming to America

No, Jesse Marsch is not coming back. It’s just the first photograph that came to hand.

FC Grimma v RB Leipzig - Pre Season Friendly Match Photo by Karina Hessland/Getty Images

As a recent inquiry into the commercial strategy and priorities of Red Bull GmbH discovered, Papa Red Bull is not fond of talking too much about his business methods. So when someone at at Red Bull wants to come out talk commercial tactics, it’s worth paying attention.

In this instance, RB Leipzig’s Oliver Mintzlaff - top man on the commercial side of things at RBL, and supposedly no longer head of RB Global Soccer but it isn’t clear who is running RBG if not Mintzy - had a chat with Bild this week, in which he revealed a rough sketch of Leipzig’s plans to grow its reputation and revenue.

“Digitization” and “internationalization” are the buzzwords that leap out from Google’s translation of the interview.

“Digitization” would seem to simply mean ramping up the club’s connection with its fans via online content. “Internationalization” may be of greater interest to New York Red Bulls fans: with better digitization, RBL will be armed to more aggressively export itself and build up a fanbase around the world. The starting points Mintzlaff has identified are “China or India, but also in the USA”.

RB Leipzig is coming to America!

It’s already here, of course. If you want news about RB Leipzig in English, it’s not hard to find. But Mintzlaff told Bild the club had a three-year plan in place to advance its digitization and internationalization goals - so expect, perhaps, to see a lot more RBL coming at you down your local internet tubes. And expect some of that RBL content to managed, directed, and made right here in the USA.

It is not an unusual strategy. Most of the world’s big soccer clubs have dedicated resources to building fanbases on a global scale. Nor is it even unique for a club like RB Leipzig to trespass on the territory inhabited by a member of its own soccer family. NYCFC is owned by City Financial Group - Manchester City’s ownership group - and that doesn’t stop Man City from trying to market itself directly to fans in the US.

What will a greater international presence for RBL mean for RBNY? Hard to say at this point. Most likely, not much at all - other than the possibility that whatever RBL cooks up for its “digitization” strategy gets shared with RBNY’s communications teams to help its work in engaging with its own fanbase.

There are several reasons Mintzlaff wants to build a global audience for RBL, but they mostly boil down to revenue. Red Bull Leipzig needs to sell more stuff, attract more sponsors, and generally do whatever it can to make its finances a little less reliant on the largesse of its primary and founding sponsor: Papa Red Bull. Financial disclosures earlier in the year revealed RB Leipzig owes Papa something close to $90 million - a debt largely incurred by loans to fund player transfers.

So RB Leipzig wants to get itself a lot closer to being financially self-sustaining. It is a policy that seems to have been put in place at all Red Bull Global clubs in recent years, though maybe RBL’s rapid rise to the Bundesliga meant it couldn’t move away from Papa’s subsidies quite as quickly as other teams in the RBG family. One inevitable impact of asking teams in the same family of clubs to be more independent is that they may start to encroach on each other’s interests. RB Leipzig needs more revenue and exposure: it makes a lot of sense for RB Leipzig to build a presence for itself in big soccer-watching markets like India, China, and the USA.

The fact there is already a Red Bull soccer club in the USA might constrain RB Leipzig if the only goal of RB Global Soccer was to market Red Bull in different countries, but increasingly the goal of RB Global Soccer has appeared to be to coordinate the growth and success of quasi-autonomous clubs around the world. Each club has to be allowed to operate at the level it deems optimal for its success, and RBL needs more cash to be competitive in Bundesliga than Salzburg or RBNY require to flourish in comparatively smaller leagues. So RBL is looking further afield for revenue opportunities, and it’s planning to come find some in America.