The National Football League may have to change its name to the International Football League. The League’s international audience building effort is gaining enough momentum that some sports business experts, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, expect serious investors to finance an expansion franchise for a new team based in London, England in the coming years.
Organizing three games this season at London’s Wembly Stadium and broadcasting the games live when it is prime time in England has built a good foundation for future success. Two days ago, Sky Sports and the NFL announced a new five year broadcast partnership that will show European audiences eighty live NFL games each season. The three local games scheduled in London this year will help build the audience by broadcasting when it is afternoon or early evening local time. Live broadcasts of NFL games in the US air in the late evening or early morning in England. This has become a classic example of good marketing turning a negative into a positive. This “scarcity premium” phenomenon has helped the NFL sell out tickets to each game in Wembly Stadium at the same time the schedule has grown from one London game a year from 2007 to 2012 and two games in 2013 to three games this year.
Live events in Europe’s largest city are also boosting interest. Today the NFL became the center of attention in the center of London with its “NFL on Regent Street” program. American cheerleaders put on a show that upstaged musicals in London’s nearby “Theaterland.” The Raiderettes’ audience was larger than capacity of all the local theaters combined! The team areas presented the stars of the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins – to the beat of a powerful sounding drumline. The program added talent scouting with the NFL Sporting Challenges and embraced local leaders who want more private support for encouraging physical fitness.
And there is more to come. On October 25, there will be a fan rally at Trafalger Square before the Atlanta Falcons challenge the Detroit Lions on October 26. A Game Day Fan Plaza will provide a warm-up act for this Sunday afternoon game. When the Dallas Cowboys play against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 9, there will also be a traditional American style tailgate party at Wembly Stadium. To match local tastes, warm beer will also be served.
These attention grabbing live events are matched by an online presence that keeps building the momentum. Podcast archives are linked to subscription sign-ups to keep fans engaged. Fans are also invited to join the NFL supporters team with a customized NFL UK Community program.
Is there anything more that the NFL could do to make its teams more at home in the United Kingdom? Yes. There is no royal box at the NFL Games. Maybe Roger Goodell should arrange season tickets for Prince Harry and a few of his best friends.