Over the past decade and a half, the NFL have been broadening their horizons, quite literally, hosting matches outside of the United States in what is known as the NFL International Series. The opening premier was back in 2007, when Wembley Stadium in London welcomed the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants to English soil. London is where the vast majority of matches have been played, most recently in the newly developed Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium but over the last few years even, the NFL decided to spread its wings further, hosting matches in Mexico and Germany. With strong international recognition already established, which countries could the NFL head to next and what does this mean for the football league as a whole?
Despite the fact the NFL is a sport supported and followed by millions of people, the popularity base is still squarely in the United States. That was until the International Series was established, allowing the football league to take teams to other overseas markets in an attempt to promote the sport further on a more international scale, and the overall benefit and gains from playing overseas and the exposure it brings is there to see, especially in the recent matches in London and Frankfurt, Germany.
The five matches over the two cities played in 2023 were quickly sold out once tickets were released to the public. The United Kingdom and Germany are the two biggest NFL markets in Europe so it was only natural that there would be lots of interest in the matches. Any sport is played for the fans and making the matches more accessible to fans in Europe is a big coup for NFL marketing on an international level.
However, despite this desire to promote the NFL in different markets, these matches are slightly detrimental to fans in the US. Viewers in Kansas for example had to tune in at 8.30am local time to watch their recent match in Frankfurt against the Miami Dolphins. Even people using betting sites in Canada to explore the betting markets would have to be more alert to the earlier kick off time. The balance the NFL needs to strike between international promotion and keeping the domestic fans and viewership on their side is a tough one but the odds on additional international ventures are quite high.
The International Home Marketing Areas Initiative also plays a significant factor in determining where the NFL goes and more importantly, who plays in a given country. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently announced that Madrid, Spain, and Sao Paulo, Brazil are viable options for further expansion, with Chicago Bears holding commercial rights in Spain, and Miami Dolphins in Brazil. That would naturally make such ventures more enticing for these teams, but for the NFL as a whole, they will consider the matches so far held in Mexico, London, Munich, and Frankfurt as just the start of things to come.