The 2017/18 DFB Pokal, once over, included 63 matches across the course of the season, including 32 matches over four days during the first round. As a result, we hit the ground running from the very first moment, ensuring that the right culture is in place for the large team we work with.
Half the tournament takes place in the first four days, and with that comes its own logistical challenges. We have venue managers at every game and at least one match delegate from DFB for all rounds. There are many moving parts and a lot of collaboration is necessary to ensure we deliver the high-quality service Infront has become known for.
Infront began the latest cycle on the DFB Pokal back in 2012, although we have been involved in centralising the marketing of the tournament and producing a consistent product for broadcasters since 2008.
The tournament has a huge draw in Germany, traditionally acting as both the opening and closing of the season. There is the traditional cup suspense from the beginning, with many "David v Goliath" moments. VfL Osnabruck's win over Hamburger SV was a great example of that last season.
Research shows that 57% of Germans choose football over all other sports to watch on television, with 32 million fans citing their interest in the tournament. Add to that the vast demographic spread – both geographically and in terms of interests – and it is easy to see how sponsors can utilise the tournament to successfully hit their target markets.
It is the most popular cup competition in Europe with over half the population showing some interest in the tournament according to research from Repucom, with 13.79 million tuning into the 2016 final compared to 8.19 million for the Champions League final.
To cut a long story short, the impact this tournament has on the German sporting calendar is huge.
Infront's operational role starts as soon as the final whistle on the previous season's final blows – if not before!
It is the time when we can review with sponsors what worked well and what they might want to introduce or change for the following season. It is also when we restart our dialogue with all the clubs who could be involved.
The next major milestone is immediately after the draw, eight weeks before the first match kicks off. Eight weeks is not a lot of time to ensure everything is in place, but we do a site visit for each stadium to make sure all clubs are aware of how to successfully deliver and implement all marketing materials to the standard the sponsors expect. German clubs are normally very professional, especially in the highest leagues. However, the standards differ as you get lower down the leagues and it is best to ensure everyone is well-informed of their responsibilities.
It is during this time that all the board plans are checked. The free-TV matches have LED boards, which is a separate challenge. We need to make sure they are perfect and consistent across all 32 matches.
Then there are the logistics for the mascots and ball carriers, an important aspect as this is something that must be 100% consistent across all matches. Overall, the process calls for perfect planning before a ball has been kicked.
The first round of the DFB Pokal is the kick-off for the new season and it is always the week before the start of the league. This means all eyes are on the event, and that is a lot of scrutiny.
To handle all 63 matches you do need one culture that everyone is behind. It requires seamless collaboration by representatives from sports services as well as marketing and we are lucky to have such a great team working behind the scenes to deliver the highest quality product.
Each stadium is dressed in the correct look and feel of the tournament, and its distinct characteristic is managed and implemented by our team. This means that fans and sponsors can instantly recognise a DFB Pokal match. That was something that was missing previously, and it took a lot of collaboration with the federation to succeed as we have done in this area.
The venues are incredibly clean in comparison to other cup competitions and having just six partners helps that. Before we were involved, there were almost 300 different sponsors, and now there are a core of six who bring the same financial value to the tournament. Of course, the sponsors are happy as their exposure is amplified. For us it means we can have real consistency in terms of venue dressing and look.
And at the end of the day, that is what helps create brand recognition.
We had a big step in terms of marketing during the 2016/17 season, which means this season is all about adapting and delivering further.
At the moment we are providing a 360° solution. DFB take care of the competition side of things, but outside of that we are providing the service.
We are also in the stage of creating new activation ideas for the 2019/20 season. At the moment, we are operating at the top level, and going forward it is all about efficient activation for our six sponsors.
But, for now, we are just focused on delivering the same world-class quality off the pitch as the players do on it.