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A Conversation with Carsten Cramer, Borussia Dortmund’s Managing Director and Business Lead

Last Friday, the Bundesliga hosted a small round table with Carsten Cramer. I’m honored to have represented SB Nation and Fear The Wall in my attendance. Here’s what Dortmund’s business guru had to say.

Sustainability Forum of the German Football League 2022 Photo by Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Last Friday, September 16, I had the opportunity to represent SB Nation and Fear The Wall at a Bundesliga-held virtual round table with other journalists and Borussia Dortmund’s Managing Director and Business Lead, Carsten Cramer. Cramer answered both pre-submitted questions as well as verbal questions during the round table and discussed everything Borussia Dortmund.

I took a lot of notes and I’m excited to share with all of you, what Carsten Cramer shared with me.

Carsten Cramer has been with Dortmund in a professional capacity since 2010, and been the Managing director since 2018. Cramer seems to bleed black and yellow, and that’s apparent in the enthusiasm in which he imbibes when discussing Dortmund. Forgive me for paraphrasing:

Cramer emphasized the importance of what he called the “Black and Yellow Story.” He said that we (the fans) are the confirmation of that. He challenged the question of why fans remain loyal to a team that hasn’t won the national championship in over a decade, but suggested that the “Black and Yellow Story,” means much more than the Bundesliga crown. The attitudes held by Borussia Dortmund differ from that of so many European clubs. BVB is still owned by the fans, and without the fans, BVB doesn’t exist. Cramer really stressed the importance of the fanbase and the excitement of playing in the atmosphere of the always-sold-out Westfalenstadion. He said that Dortmund’s home games have a different kind of passion and this was apparent in Manchester City. City fans didn’t express the same kind of emotion or intensity as is so consistent from Dortmund supporters. Cramer highlighted the importance of that fan-driven passion.

Borussia Dortmund Training Session And Press Conference
Carsten Cramer and Edin Terzic together in Manchester for Dortmund’s UEFA Champions League match against Manchester City
Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

When asked about the various global markets, Cramer stressed that the US and North America remained a priority ahead of the 2026 World Cup. He said that Dortmund would be returning to the USA next summer! When asked about BVB’s goals in the American Market, Cramer expressed that they simply wanted to reach as many individuals as possible to raise interest. As demand increases, so will media attention; new partners and broadcasting deals will follow. He also mentioned that BVB has received an invitation to visit Mexico, though a decision has not been made. Cramer spoke briefly about the recent publicity ahead of Dortmund’s Southeast Asia tour this winter, and how it made sense with the Bundesliga’s prolonged winter break.

In regards to South American and Latin American Markets, Cramer sees room to grow. Part of this outreach has been involving several Brazilian players in the BVB Legends teams. The biggest difficulty in these regions however, remains broadcasting. Dortmund and the Bundesliga has struggled to gain enough momentum in these regions to partner with the broadcasting companies. Cramer did seem optimistic though.

A common theme in this discussion was the passion that surrounds Dortmund DNA. Most players can identify but also move on. That’s the way it is in football. It’s also in Dortmund’s DNA to develop young talent like Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, propelling them to stardom while selling for substantial profit. We’re seeing it with Jude Bellingham right now. Cramer reminded us that most players don’t start and end at the same club. Most players move around quite a bit. But that’s why a player like Marco Reus receives such adoration from Dortmund fans. Reus has stayed over a decade. But Reus is an exception and Cramer wants fans to remember that from season to season.

Borussia Dortmund Bad Ragaz Training Camp
Marco Reus meets his fans during a training camp in 2019
Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

Cramer showed everyone a current Dortmund home Jersey to point out that “Borussia Dortmund” is written along the shoulder line while player names are printed beneath the number. There is reason for this: that’s the Black and Yellow Story. The club is more important than any single player and the club has no desire to emulate any other team. Borussia Dortmund wants to focus on being as authentically Borussia Dortmund as possible.

When asked about bridging the gap with Bayern, Cramer shook it off as less significant than the media makes it out to be. Bayern is more interesting if all you like are trophies. Cramer compared the two slogans ‘Mia San Mia,” and “Echte Liebe.” While Bayern’s slogan stands for winning and succeeding at all costs, Dortmund’s translates literally to “real love.” Cramer also admitted that it’s more challenging to remain a Top 10 German club than it is to become one. He doesn’t see the gap as feasibly closable since Bayern will always have a financial advantage, will always have interest from big corporate partners because of their location in Munich. Cramer didn’t dwell on this but instead spoke about how Dortmund constantly faces teams that are increasing in skill each year. We can strive for number one, but cannot forget to look over our shoulder. He used Freiburg and Union Berlin as examples. But he did say that the biggest difference between Dortmund and other clubs remain the fans. If anyone doubts this, just watch the crowd at Dortmund’s next home game. Within Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, the fans frequently act as the “12th man” so to speak.

Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 - Bundesliga
Dortmund’s famous Yellow Wall
Photo by Jörg Schüler/Getty Images

Finally, Cramer discussed the International Fan shop, since fans like to identify with Black and Yellow, and that identity helps act to spread interest. Anyone in the US who has ordered a jersey or scarf from the fan shop has had to wait until that signature yellow box ships across the Atlantic. Cramer did confirm all manufacturing was in Europe and that e-commerce is not a great market at the moment, but that will inevitably change. He did say that BVB is currently in negotiations with American manufacturers and others to expand availability and create a more robust international fan shop.

There was a lot of information packed into this small round table with Carsten Cramer, but it was an honor to listen and learn more about a person who does so much for Dortmund behind the scenes. Like Carston Cramer, I’m bubbling with enthusiasm for the future of Borussia Dortmund. I think my biggest take away is that the Black and Yellow Story is still being written, and as a fan I’m part of that story.

As a fan, you are part of the Black and Yellow Story too.

Borussia Dortmund - Hertha BSC
Cramer, Watzke, Kehl and company helps give Michael Zorc a proper send-off at the end of the 21/22 Season
Photo by David Inderlied/picture alliance via Getty Images

Finally I’d like to thank Carsten Cramer for taking the time out of his busy day to address us giddy journalists, the Bundesliga for organizing this round table, as well as SB Nation and Fear The Wall for allowing me to represent them at such an exciting event.

What are your thoughts?

  • Will you try to see Dortmund next summer? (For our US-based reader)
  • What has you excited about BVB’s future?
  • What do you hope to see added to the fan shop?