Marco Baldi is busy working on Alba Berlin's connections with China and Borussia Dortmund.

Marco Baldi is busy working on Alba Berlin’s connections with China and Borussia Dortmund.

Munich (heinnews) – Alba Berlin have been building up their relationship with China and have even talked about bringing over young Chinese players as a possible next step, according to club general manager Marco Baldi. The Alba Berlin leader also spoke to Taking The Charge about the cooperation with Borussia Dortmund and how they are studying how the German football/soccer giants is structured and push their brand.

Berlin’s endeavour into China began in 2011 when they held their first training camp in the country. Since then, Alba have come up with a number of programs, ranging from the school and university level to federations and companies.

In September 2014, Berlin announced a three-year deal with the Chinese ZhongDe Metal Group as the jersey sponsor for the club and its second main sponsor.

The group – whose name translates to Chinese-German Metal Group – was founded in 2012 to build a German-Chinese eco-model city in Guangdong in southern China. German and Chinese companies are sharing their know-how to build a city in which about 100,000 people will live at high environmental standards.

“We have tough opponents and we have to see how to find our way. We don’t have a president or owner who just puts in money as long as it’s worth it or Bayern Munich which is a big club with a big image and they can go their way with that. We have to find our way,” Baldi said.

“We think we have a good chance with China. It’s a very dynamic economy. They are very interested in shared experiences and shared know-how and it’s a huge basketball market. It’s probably the biggest in the world, probably not as developed or at the level as in the States but the interest is there.”

Since first going there, Berlin have organised regular tournaments, camps and training programs at international schools in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. And there is an annual German-Chinese student tournament held in Berlin.


Baldi also said the club has started a cooperation with the Guangdong Southern Tigers which is one of the most popular and successful teams in China with eight CBA titles between 2004 and 2013.

“We exchange at all aspects of basketball – athletic programs, preparation periods, youth programs but also marketing, ticketing and so on. And it’s worked. We brought a sponsor from China with whom we are collaborating,” said Baldi, whose club opened an office in Beijing in July 2015.

“Of course it’s not easy because it’s far away, it’s a different culture. But that makes it very interesting. I would say it’s a pioneer move. But so far it’s fun and there are benefits in place. We will be consistent with it.”

Baldi said Alba plan on expanding their connection with China, including trying to attract more German companies to invest in the eco-city.

“They are trying to attract companies from Germany to invest there and so we are one platform in order to communicate this to companies in Germany so they know there are possibilities. This is exactly what we want to do. We build the bridge and of course we will have our benefit out of this. We hope we can continue this. it’s our plan.”

When asked about bringing in a Chinese player, Baldi said: “Of course it’s a thought and an idea. I think it’s very difficult because there’s a lot of money in the market in China. They have players coming from the NBA. I think to bring a proven player from China who is able to compete immediately at say the top European level it’s going to be difficult. even the NBA is struggling with that.”

Baldi believes more likely would be young Chinese players coming into the Berlin youth system.

“We talked to the Southern Tigers to maybe exchange young players as the first step because they want their youngsters to get a wider range of education. And we can deliver something there – and vice versa. We also could one, two players there that they get in their rhythm.”

Baldi also talked about another interesting collaboration the club has had since July 2015, when Alba and eight-time German football champions Borussia Dortmund presented plans to cooperate in numerous areas.

“This is one of the highest developed clubs in Europe. Of course soccer is a different sport and a different environment. There’s a lot more money in the market and so on. But we can learn things from them: how their club is structured, the way they’ve built their brand, how they work consistently with their brand values,” Baldi said.

Thomas Tuchel, Lukasz Piszczek, Marcel Schmelzer, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Mats Hummels (from left) of Borussia Dortmund visited an Alba Berlin game on February 6, 2016. Photo by Imago

Thomas Tuchel, Lukasz Piszczek, Marcel Schmelzer, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Mats Hummels (from left) of Borussia Dortmund visited an Alba Berlin game on February 6, 2016. Photo by Imago

“We will find some aspects we can work directly together with them like merchandising and also with China. We will try to cooperate there. But these are long-term projects. This is not just over-night. This is also an exchange of know-how and at some levels we will collaborate together like merchandising.”

“There are interesting areas, also in social media where we want to link up with them,” Dortmund marketing boss Carsten Cramer said at the time of the announcement.

While Berlin can help Dortmund get their foot in the door in China, Dortmund can assist Berlin in marketing, television contracts among other areas.

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