In an increasingly global economic world, it seems no brand can claim true dominance without reaching every corner of the globe. Sports franchises and organizations are no different. Every professional team and league searches beyond domestic borders to reach new fans and new pocketbooks in different parts of the world.
The NFL is a perfect example of a powerhouse sports organization looking to push its brand name to the top of the list worldwide. The NFL faces a difficult struggle though. When Americans hear the term “football” they immediately think of NCAA football and the NFL. Across the rest of the globe however, the term “football” is used to refer to what Americans call soccer. Therein lies the challenge for the NFL, sell their brand of football to billions of citizens in different countries where another football is king and try to dethrone the most popular sport in the world at the same time.
In 2005 the NFL launched an initiative to spread their brand across the globe, starting with their neighbor to the south. Mexico hosted the first game in the NFL International Series in 2005. It was the first regular season NFL game played outside the United States. Now, Wembley Stadium in London, England has become the go to host as the U.S. seeks to expand across the Atlantic.
Since 2007, one regular season NFL matchup has been played in London in front of massive crowds. The question remains though, is the NFL International Series at Wembley going to pay off for the NFL in the long run?
The simplest way of judging the success or failure of the NFL International Series is to look at the attendance numbers from the first few seasons. 2007 marked the first year an NFL regular season matchup was played beyond American shores, and since then the series has returned to Wembley every season through 2011. Overall, attendance figures are on the rise for the NFL International Series. The attendance from the first five matches is as follows:
- 2007: 81,176
- 2008: 83,226
- 2009: 84,254
- 2010: 83,941
- 2011: 76,981
Although the attendance numbers have gone up and down in the first five seasons and are trending downward, the overall attendance figures are strong. Wembley Stadium holds roughly 90,000 guests for American football matches. With each fixture drawing more than 85% of capacity, the attraction of American football in England is strong. The average attendance of NFL games in the United States is just over 66,000 meaning the NFL International Series has drawn an average of at least 10,000 more guests per game to date.
Attendance numbers aren’t always the best tool for analyzing the success of a sporting event. After all, any given stadium can only host so many spectators. The real money and key to profitability comes from the television audience that is drawn in. Here you will find the true growing success of the NFL in England.
Sky Sports is the primary satellite pay-TV provider across the United Kingdom and Ireland and has been a driving force in generating attention for American football in the British Isles. Sky Sports began broadcasting live NFL games to its subscribers in the new millennium and now offers at least six live games each weekend. From 2008 to 2010, viewership increased 50% each season. The biggest indicator of the success of American football in England is the expansion of television coverage. In 2008 the BBC also broadcast the International Series live, providing coverage to non-Sky Sports subscribers.
The NFL has a bright outlook in England. Attendance is high and viewership is even higher, and rising. The NFL and its owners recently extended the NFL International Series through 2016 and have committed the St. Louis Rams to play one game each season in London through the current contract. The International Series has been so successful, and the growth so palpable, that there is even talk of starting a franchise based in London. Time will tell on the latter, but a new brand of football is taking hold in the British Isles.
Guest post contributed by Jane Spencer on behalf of Bingostreet.com