Martin Kurzka was happy to receive a special gift on the occasion of his 50th birthday three years ago. The then president of SC Freiburg and later DFB president Fritz Keller presented him with a Freiburg jersey.
Image: Kurzka / exb
Böhmischbruck is a district of Vohenstrauß, has a few hundred inhabitants and there is no real football pitch. If you want to kick for points, you have to drive a few kilometers further, to SpVgg Vohenstrauß or SpVgg Moosbach. “Of course, as a child, I often played soccer with friends,” says Martin Kurzka. A passion that still accompanies him today. In the world of the 53-year-old from Böhmischbruck, almost everything revolves around round leather.
Martin Kurzka has long been firmly rooted in the professional football business, practically right in the middle of the Bundesliga. Not as a trainer or functionary, but wherever the money flows, sponsors are won, and new sources of income are tapped. “Tricot advertising, perimeter advertising, stadium magazine, online presence, social media,” is how Kurzka enumerates his area of responsibility. “The list is not complete. At SC Freiburg, we take care of everything related to sponsoring and partnerships.”
By “we” Kurzka means his employer. Since 2009 he has been employed by Infront Sports & Media, the leading sports marketing company in Europe, and has been heading the “Team SC Freiburg” since then. A stroke of luck, as he says: “It’s a lot of fun to work in Freiburg and for this club.” In his experience, the people here are “not loudspeakers” but “do their job, and they do it well”. For Kurzka, a comparison with the Upper Palatinate makes sense: “They have a similar mentality in southern Baden. You take a step back and don’t have to bear successes in front of you, even if you have to show them off.”
Uli Hoeneß thinks similarly. The (former) Bayern maker recently sent a declaration of love to the sports club in an interview. “I love this club because they do everything so well. Emotionally, modestly and with hard work,” was the exuberant praise. Hoeneß also admitted that FC Bayern had flirted with Christian Streich in the past. A consideration that Kurzka can understand: “Christian Streich is credible and authentic, all round a great personality as a trainer and as a person.”
In die Champions-League?
The sporting heights in the current Bundesliga season has recently catapulted the Freiburg to third place. Kurzka does not want to judge whether the path now leads to the Champions League: “Somebody else should rather make a forecast. Someone who is responsible for the sporting area.” What he excludes, however, are complacency and arrogance: “The thinking here is not primarily in the direction of European competition. You scroll down the table and see how big the gap is to the relegation places.”
The Baden understatement could soon be over. With the move to the Europa-Park Stadium, the club with 26,500 members has fulfilled its dream of a new venue. Capacity 35,000 spectators, construction costs 76 million euros – these are the most important key data. Finally the trouble with the German Football League (DFL) is no longer an issue. “In the old Dreisamstadion, the place was 3.5 meters too short and had a noticeable gradient,” reports Kurzka. “There was a special permit for years. It would not have lasted forever. That alone made the construction of the stadium necessary.”
In conversation with partners
What is important for Kurzka: The new arena opens up completely new opportunities in terms of marketing. “As far as the stadium is concerned, SC Freiburg lagged behind the competition for a long time. Others rebuilt or upgraded their stadiums for the 2006 World Cup,” says Kurzka. The competitive disadvantage in infrastructure is now a thing of the past. “We now have 2,000 VIP seats. That is twice as many as before,” says the 53-year-old, naming one of the many positive changes. Staying in touch with the partners of SC Freiburg, deepening relationships, maintaining contacts, all of this is part of the business: “That is part of marketing.” Kurzka and his marketing staff are therefore naturally on site at home games. “That is a main working day. Then it is not about the acquisition of sponsors, but about their support. And that is at least as important.”
Kurzka has internalized network thinking deeply. After completing classic hotel training, the man from northern Upper Palatinate spent his first years in the accommodation industry. He took care of advertising and sales for well-known hotels in southern Germany. The course for football was set purely by chance. “I got in touch with the Stuttgarter Kickers when I was handing over a check, and first gave them one or two tips.” It did not stop at individual pieces of advice. For four and a half years he was responsible for sponsoring, marketing and public relations for the then regional and third division team and at the same time was the division manager of the Kickers’ top division team. Then a promising offer fell on the table. “At that time, Infront Sports & Media wanted to expand increasingly on the German sports market and get involved in several clubs. SC Freiburg was my job.”
Born in Bohemia, he has been in the professional business for more than ten years, opening up sources of income for the Freiburg-based company and now knows only too well about possible pitfalls. But where elsewhere sponsors quit after the third defeat in a row or complain about too little in return, the Breisgau is almost an island of bliss. “SC Freiburg is a positively charged brand. When things don’t go that way, most sponsors don’t scold themselves, they show understanding. That is what they have in common.” Kurzka can still remember the relegation to the Bundesliga in 2015. “There was no end of the world mood, everyone looked ahead together. A year later the sports club was back in the Bundesliga.”
“Mostly a Tannenzäpfle”
As for the list of sponsors, Kurzka is a little proud. The marketing concept he helped develop works, it is the large regional companies such as Schwarzwaldmilch, Hilzinger (windows / doors), Wiha-Werkzeuge or the Rothaus brewery that support SC Freiburg in good and bad times. “When I have a beer, it is usually a Tannenzäpfle,” laughs Kurzka. “It wouldn’t be very credible if I weren’t convinced of the products of our sponsors.”
When visiting home, the 53-year-old also likes to taste a beer from the Upper Palatinate. “I only come to Vohenstrauss two to four times a year, but I have close contact with the family,” he says. Sometimes he is even provided with a live ticker. “SV Altenstadt, where my brother and his wife as well as my two nieces and three nephews played soccer, lost 3-1 in the district class derby at SpVgg Vohenstrauß II. I always knew how things were going.” One day of the Bundesliga, the next district class. Down to earth.
SC Freiburg/Infront Sports Media
- For a long time, SC Freiburg was in the shadow of Freiburg FC.
- In 1993 they were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time under coach Volker Finke.
- The club was promoted to the Bundesliga four times.
- The sports club has been playing in the newly built Europa-Park Stadium since mid-October 2021.
- Infront Sports & Media has been the Breisgauer’s marketing partner since 2009.
- Since then, Martin Kurzka from Vohenstrauß has been responsible for sponsoring and partnerships as “Team Leader SC Freiburg”.