If you haven’t heard of Rasenballsport Leipzig, don’t worry your not alone. In fact the team didn’t even exist until 2009. In 7 seasons the club in East Germany have experienced 5 promotions. What you may not realise is that the abbreviation for the team is RB Leipzig, and this gives away the clue to their success. The team is owned by Red Bull, an international energy drink company whose name is becoming more and more prevalent in the world of football.
Red Bull have revenue of £5 billion and have poured a lot of the money into sponsoring, creating a behemoth of marketing. They have been intrinsically linked to sport due to their supposed energy giving properties were traditionally visible all over the extreme sports world. They also run the Formula 1 teams Red Bull Racing and Torro Rosso which is understandable considering the sport has been run by sponsors, and wouldn’t exist otherwise. Controversy comes however when their aggressive marketing techniques are applied to the beautiful game.
Commercialisation of the planet’s most popular game has always been cause for friction. The game is linked to being a game of the masses for the masses. The Red Bull empire began in their hometown of Salzburg when they bought the club SV Austria Salzburg in 2005, and changed the name to Red Bull Salzburg. They did not stop here however going on to buy a similiar team in New York and giving it an American stylized nickname ‘Red Bulls’. Two more have joined since then, Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Ghana. This blatant monetizing of a sport has rubbed up football traditionalists the wrong way and none more so than in Germany.
Germany is well known for its tight regulations and passionate involvement of fans at the board level. Never has the Red Bull plans been more sketchy than in Leipzig. Having started the club themselves they were restricted about their usual name change, but that didn’t stop them trying. Calling the team ‘Rasenball’ they were able to abbreviate to RB and thus getting their much needed ‘advert’ added. In Germany there is also the 50+1 rule that allows fans to become members of clubs and have a say in how they are run. Red Bull got around this too, making the price of membership 800 euros, which is ten times the amount of Bayern Munich’s. At the time of writing there are only 17 members of the club. Hardly a big voting bloc. Leipzig has another team called Lokomotiv Leipzig. Their fans feel rightfully angry for their city to be hijacked like this. One fan said ‘My club was founded in order to play football,’ he told sportsmail ‘RB Leipzig was founded to make money. To sell an energy drink.’
Money is ruling football more and more in the modern world. Transfer fees are exorbitant and foreign investors are buying clubs as a play thing. Red Bull however are providing a direct link to companies using teams as a marketing ploy. This flies in the face of not only football but sport itself. The empty vessel of clubs they are creating make the whole concept of a club representing a town a farce, bringing it more towards the franchise system of American Major sports. This is not the only case of branding numerous clubs with Manchester City owning four clubs all with the same brand name City and team colours, but it has never been so blatant.
RB Leipzig have just been promoted to the Bundesliga and many clubs are protesting by refusing to play friendly matches against them. They have a aggressive transfer policy, buying up lots of promising teenagers and they have already used the Red Bull billions on Timo Werner, an exciting prospect from Stuttgart, and offering £20 million for Swiss star Breel Embolo. It looks like Red Bull and their master plan are here to stay, but in German fooball, they have a fierce adversary, and if there was one place that could fightback against corporate football it is there.
Bio: Joshua Mason is a huge Sports fan from the UK. He loves finding out about new sports, teams and athletes. He has written and created content for Ubitennis, Euro 2016, betting tips and The Worldly Magazine among others and is looking forward to adding Essentially to the list!