Learning from FC Bayern: “Digital Transformation Is an Eternal Beta Phase”

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Companies like FC Bayern München are facing the challenge of digitalization on one side, and maintaining their own DNA on the other. Before his keynote at the ISPO Digitize Summit, Stefan Mennerich, Director of Media, Digital and Communication at FC Bayern, talks in an interview about the digital transformation of the sports industry and his company as a positive example.

Stefan Mennerich – Director Media, Digital and Communication beim FC Bayern
Stefan Mennerich – Director Media, Digital and Communication FC Bayern

30 social media channels, more than 47 million Facebook followers, 10.6 billion users reached in the year 2017: FC Bayern München doesn’t just want to be one of the best in the world in soccer – they also want to set new standards in transformation in the age of digitalization. 

The German record-winning champion took the next step towards this goal in early 2018: In January, FC Bayern organized Hackdays, a hackathon with a total of 226 participants from 43 countries. In May, the German champion announced the founding of the Digital and Media Lab.

In his keynote at the ISPO Digitize Summit (June 28/29), Stefan Mennerich, Director of Media, Digital and Communication at FC Bayern, will discuss the challenge of digitalization, the change in thinking that digitalization brings, and the new “digital unit.”

“Digital transformation is an eternal beta phase” What are your three most important take-aways from the digital transformation?

Stefan Mennerich: 1. That you’ll never finished with it – the digital transformation is an eternal beta phase. 2. That you always have to “draw in” knowledge, always have your “ear on the track,” that you always have to be open to new things. 3. That you have to accept mistakes. Mistakes are part of the digital transformation.

Digitalization calls for a change in “thinking”

What are the biggest challenges facing companies like FC Bayern on the subject of the digital transformation?
The greatest challenge in connection with the digital transformation within a company is certainly the change of “thinking,” of “culture.” Away from traditional, security-oriented ways of thinking, towards agile thinking, towards always questioning yourself and everything, and not shying away from rapid, courageous, risky decisions.

How digital is the sports industry compared to other sectors?
That’s difficult to answer in general. As far as content is concerned, the big American clubs and the big European soccer clubs are already very far off. As far as service offerings, e-commerce, CRM models, etc. are concerned, sports can definitely still learn from the large mail-order companies, for example. 

“Digital unit” needs to be heavily anchored in the company

What are the hallmarks of successful companies in the digital age? Are the structures decisive, or digitally thinking employees?
On the one hand, companies are successful in the digital age because they have many employees who have dedicated themselves to digitalization and digital transformation, who think and act digitally. On the other hand, it’s also important that the “digital unit” of the company be heavily and prominently anchored in the company, so the necessary enforcement power is also associated with it.

How do your employees at FC Bayern develop a digital mindset?
Most employees have already been selected for bringing a digital mindset, for thinking digitally. In addition, we strongly promote daily exchange and a culture of “knowledge sharing.” Everyone can make suggestions, everyone is heard, mistakes are tolerated.

Don’t neglect your own culture and brand

Which product that connects the digital world and the world of sports inspires you the most?
Most recently, I was excited about the FC Bayern Hackdays. A hackathon we organized in January. With 226 participants from 43 countries and seven inspiring challenges with amazing results, the Hackdays were a complete success and the perfect combination of the real sports world and the digital world. In the Allianz Arena, around our Bundesliga match against Werder Bremen, the participants developed tons of ideas for the digital future of the German record champion over four days. 

What can the audience at your ISPO Digitize keynote learn from you and FC Bayern’s success in the digital sector?
I hope FC Bayern is a good example that you have to actively pursue the digital transformation without ever neglecting your own culture, your own brand, your own history.

The keynote speaker at ISPO Digitize

Digital pioneers, renowned companies, and greats from the sports industry will speak at the ISPO Digitize Summit (June 28/29). In advance, they told their most important learnings from digitalization.

Stefan Mennerich’s résumé

Position: Stefan Mennerich, Director of Media, Digital and Communication and authorized signatory,
has worked in various positions at FC Bayern München since 1997. He developed all of FC Bayern’s online, mobile, and social media offerings, from its website and Facebook presence to its own TV channel and all of its club TV offerings, which are broadcast worldwide online, via mobile, and on TV. Furthermore, Mennerich is responsible for the Communication and the CRM and IT divisions at the record-winning champion club.

The business graduate is a member of the “Media Rights” working groups of the UEFA and DFL. Mennerich will also lead the newly founded subsidiary firm “FCB Digital & Media Lab” in addition to his previous functions.