How the NFL is growing into a global juggernaut

The NFL has become a global behemoth taking its product beyond the shores of North America into all corners of the world. What was a niche sport for followers outside of the United States 30 years ago, has now become one of the most notorious games in the world to watch and engage with for supporters in almost every continent.

The International Series was the spark for the NFL’s expansion across the globe, beginning in 2007 when the New York Giants faced off against the Miami Dolphins. The decision was seen as a gamble by Commissioner Roger Goodell at the time, and support for overseas games was not unilateral from the 32 owners. There would have been natural fears regarding the lack of ticket sales, especially considering the size of Wembley Stadium. So buying Bills tickets in advance is the best way to guarantee that you’ll be able to attend the game in person.

International Series Success

However, a crowd of 81,176 attended the contest and offered proof that the NFL could launch further games in London. As more teams made the trip over the pond, the attendances continued to grow and the popularity of the game rose not only in the United Kingdom but also across Europe. The NFL opted to expand the series in 2013 to add another game before increasing the number of matches once more in 2014 and then again in 2017 to three and four respectively. The crowds kept coming, prompting talk of an NFL franchise moving permanently to London. Although that has not come to fruition, a partnership with Tottenham Hotspur and their stadium has given access to a permanent venue in the United Kingdom, with a retractable pitch that can be seamlessly constructed for immediate use.

The NFL has proven to have had a successful venture in the European market based solely on the quality of its product. It has given the course to take the game beyond London and into mainland Europe with Munich becoming the third city outside of the United States to stage a regular season contest when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Seattle Seahawks on November 22.

Germany has shown strong support for the NFL, having previously staged a great number of the teams from the ill-fated NFL Europe alongside the United Kingdom. Television viewing figures are high, and there is great hope that Munich and the rest of Germany will provide a second European hub for the NFL to maintain and grow the International Series. It not only behoves the NFL, but also Munich as a travel destination for thousands of fans of the sport to make the pilgrimage to Allianz Arena every year. 

Star Players and Teams

The NFL is blessed to have had one star at the top of the game for so long with Tom Brady, dominating the league with the New England Patriots and the Buccaneers over the last 22 years. Even at the age of 44, Brady remains one of the league’s best players and is the face of the NFL. Brady’s jersey is still the most popular NFL shirt to buy in the United States, which is a testament to his brilliance. However, he is not alone and the next generation of quarterbacks in the league are ensuring that the league will not wane without Brady. Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen will make the league fascinating to watch over the next 10 to 15 years. The quality of the product and the star presence of their players, including Brady, has allowed the NFL to broadcast games to 181 countries across all continents.

It is not only a viewing spectacle that has endeared the NFL to fans all over the world, American Football is one of the most popular sports to bet on too. This is reflected by the leading online betting sites expanding their coverage of the NFL to cater for the demand from bettors. You can now bet on the NFL all year round across the world, whether you’re in the United States, Australia, UK or even Thailand, with outright markets available on the Super Bowl winner, Conference winner, and even draft and free-agent destination wagers. As a result, players can be known to bettors and spectators without having played a down in the NFL. Betting and fantasy football has further brought players and teams to the attention of audiences worldwide, again which has been noted by the league.

Target Marketing

Now the NFL is targeting specific teams for certain markets, handing 26 of their franchises a unique region to promote themselves. For example, the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams have been placed in Australia and China in a bid to increase the popularity of the sport. The NFL will hope that the presence of the Rams as winners will build support for not only the franchise but the league as a whole.

The NFL will harbour ambitions of taking the International Series beyond Europe, and Rams COO Kevin Demoff has already raised the possibility of Los Angeles playing a game in Australia in the near future. It would be the natural next step for the league, although there will be natural logistical concerns given the geography in question.

The ambition of the NFL should be lauded with their ventures overseas. Whereas other notable leagues in the world such as the Premier League and LaLiga have been reticent to branch out into different countries with their product, the NFL has been bold and has taken the risk and has been rewarded with a huge global audience. It is only expected to grow in the coming years, especially if the games in London, Mexico City and Munich continue to be successful. Other businesses in the sporting arena and beyond could look at the NFL as a shining example of how to develop and successfully expand a brand.