Fox Sports Looking to Boost German Soccer League Viewing After Shaky Start

Courtesy of Fox Sports
Dortmund soccer star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang prepares to take a penalty shot for Fox's #18TOWIN campaign.

Fox kicked off a two-week social media campaign Friday for the start of the Bundesliga winter season.

Fox Sports has kicked off its marketing campaign for the return of the Bundesliga on Friday, half a year after the network started airing matches from Germany's top soccer league on its networks worldwide.

That launch was hyped as groundbreaking, but the results have been mixed. Ratings in the U.S. for Bundesliga matches have been poor, averaging 55,000 per match for the first 17 games Fox aired in the 2015/2016 season, or around a tenth of what NBC draws for its English Premier League matches stateside.

Only Leverkusen has averaged over 100,000 viewers per match in the U.S., largely due to Mexican star Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito, who is a big draw for U.S. Hispanic fans. The biggest single draw in the U.S. was for a one-off, tape-delayed airing of the Sept. 13 match between Bayern Munich and Augsburg, which reached 926,000 viewers.

Undaunted, Fox on Friday rolled out its new social media campaign for the Bundesliga. Called #18TOWIN, it is an online game, in which fans predict the outcome of a series of penalty shootouts between the best players in the league.

All 18 Bundesliga teams took part in the campaign, and stars such as Dortmund's Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Fabian Johnson of Borussia Monchengladbach and Marco Fabian of Schalke 04 tried their luck against their respective team keepers.

Fans can vote on social media platforms who they think will score or miss. Fox will announce the results on Friday, Feb. 5.

"The campaign should prove that the scale of the Fox Sports' global reach – on television as well as social media – can introduce ever more fans to the Bundesliga,” said Simon Thomas, Fox international channels vp of global sports and content sales.

Fox Sports' reach is undeniable. The network simulcast the opening match of the Bundesliga season to 80 territories last year, and its licensing deal with the German soccer association runs through 2020, so it is in the game for the long haul. But Fox still has to prove audiences in the U.S. are willing to tune in to German soccer.