The league knows that fan growth will mainly come from the international markets and, therefore, new sources of income, from media rights to sponsorship and other revenues. In his participation at #SiSMasters, Brett Gosper, the Head of NFL Europe, told SiS that the NFL expects a considerable fan base increase from the international market: “the next NFL 50 million fans will come from outside of the United States…real growth can come from outside of the States.”
The NFL is developing games outside of the United States to grow internationally. “I could say an objective is to have games in other markets in Europe. But having the games is not an objective, it’s a means to an end, it’s a tool to help you grow the audience and engage fans. So ultimately, it’s the growth of the fan base, which is what you want to do.”
The NFL has played games in London since 2007. However, the first two games of this season celebrated at Tottenham Stadium have shown the growth of the league in Europe and the increased acceptance of the US market with these overseas games. These are two examples to prove this:
- Fanatics set a merchandise sales record for an NFL game in London around the Vikings-Saints game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
- Giants-Packers game reached an audience of 5.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched London game ever to air on NFL Network, up 55% from last year’s Week 5 game held in London. And the previous record was set a week earlier by the Vikings-Saints game.
Besides, NFL Players Inc has reported increased demand by retailers for NFL player-branded products. From March 2021 to February 2022, European licensees generated 25 million in retail sales.
Speaking at an NFL UK fan event ahead of the Packers-Giants fixture, Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, was hopeful of forming an international team. However, he did highlight the various associated challenges. He expressed: “I think there’s no question that London could support not just one franchise, I think two franchises, I really believe that,” He even went further: “We’re trying to see, could you have multiple locations in Europe where you could have an NFL franchise, because it would be easier as a division.”
It is not a secret that the global market is an NFL objective; an essential strategy for achieving this is the International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA), where the NFL granted 18 teams access to 26 across eight countries, aiming to enable clubs to build their global brands while driving NFL fan growth internationally. The IHMA and the international series games are linked with the league´s decision to extend the regular season to 18 games. This way, all 32 teams will play at least one international game in the next eight seasons; the League will use its best efforts to ensure franchises play their international games in their International HMAs, where possible.
In 2007 when the first official NFL game was played in London, the idea of having a permanent franchise playing there was just a dream; now, there are many reasons to think we are not that far from that.
If you want to know more about these international strategies and more about what Brett Gosper is doing at NFL Europe, listen to the #SISMasters podcast here: https://spoti.fi/3S7kdmw