NFL fever in Germany - Why millions of fans love American football

On 5 November 2023, German fans were able to experience the reigning NFL champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, live at Frankfurt Stadium. It only took a few minutes for all available tickets for the Chiefs' game against the Miami Dolphins to be sold out. The second German game in the National Football League this year - the New England Patriots played against the Indianapolis Colts on 13 November - was also sold out within a very short space of time. More than 4.3 million fans tried to buy tickets for one of the two games. American football is booming in Germany.

NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes played with his Kansas City Chiefs against the Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt on 5 November

NFL International Games in Frankfurt and Munich

The NFL has long recognised the great passion of German fans for American football and thus also the marketing potential for its sport and teams. The largest American sports league will organise regular season games in Germany for at least four years. Munich and Frankfurt will alternate as venues. According to the organisers, three million tickets had already been sold for the first German game last year in Munich's Allianz Arena. Further "International Games" will be held in London and Mexico City, for example, as part of the international marketing strategy.

The popularity of the sport in Germany is demonstrated every year by the Super Bowl's ratings. In 1999, 580,000 viewers watched the first free-to-air Super Bowl in Germany. By 2023, the TV audience had more than tripled: 1.77 million viewers tuned in in the middle of the night (CET) on 13 February 2023 to watch Patrick Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles - a market share of 25.4 percent.

RTL Group takes over broadcasting rights

For the 2023/24 season, RTL Group has secured an extensive rights package for the first time, replacing TV broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 after ten years of NFL coverage. "After football, American football is the most popular sport among the 14- to 49-year-old audience in Germany," is RTL's reasoning for acquiring the rights. The laid-back NFL programmes on ProSiebenSat.1, which are also suitable for newcomers, have further increased the enthusiasm for American football in recent years. Broadcasting by RTL Group should give the sport an even greater reach.

Long history of American football in Germany

The hype surrounding American football in Germany is no coincidence. American GIs stationed in Germany brought the sport with them from their home country after the Second World War. In 1977, the Frankfurt Lions became the first American football club to be founded in Germany. This was followed by other clubs and, in 1979, organised matches for the first time. In 1992, the NFL came to Germany for the first time for pre-season games. Top German clubs such as Frankfurt Galaxy and the Hamburg Sea Devils dominated European competitions in the 1990s and 2000s. According to NFL boss Alexander Steinfort, up to 15 per cent of spectators travelled from Germany to the annual NFL Europe Games between two US teams at London's Wembley Stadium from 2007 onwards.

  • 19 m

    NFL fans in Germany

  • 3.6 m

    of the German fans follow the NFL closely

  • 54 %

    of NFL fans are between 16 and 34 years old

American Vikings and Chiefs fans pose together before a game in Kansas City, Missouri

Why is American Football so popular in Germany?

According to NFL figures, there are around 19 million fans in Germany, 3.6 million of whom follow the NFL closely. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has 500 registered football teams with more than 70,000 members. Where does the great popularity come from?

Whether music, film or sport - German culture is strongly influenced by American culture. Many German fans get to know and love American football for the first time during a student exchange at a high school, a semester abroad at a US college or as an au pair with an American family. However, it is not only the athletic and tactical nature of the sport that makes it so appealing, but also the associated fan culture. The community aspect also plays a major role. Watching football together on Sundays is a fixed ritual for millions of Americans, as is the traditional barbecue in the stadium car parks hours before kick-off.

"Germany has developed into the most important NFL market outside the USA in many areas."

Alexander Steinforth, NFL Managing Director Germany

NFL's big shot

The NFL has set itself the clear goal of becoming the No. 2 sport behind football by 2024. The league is working consistently towards this and has created more and more touchpoints over the years. SPORTFIVE has been supporting the NFL as a marketing partner for its market entry in Germany since 2018, and the global sports marketing agency has been working with the Kansas City Chiefs since 2022. As one of currently five NFL teams, the Chiefs have been granted marketing rights for Germany as part of the NFL's International Home Market Area (IHMA) programme. The aim of this international expansion strategy is to further expand the NFL's global presence. The NFL will gain additional momentum in Germany through the Regular Season Game, which was also introduced in 2022. "In many areas, Germany has become the most important NFL market outside the USA," NFL Germany boss Alexander Steinforth told the German press agency DPA.

Attractive target group for sponsors

"The NFL community loves the entertainment and event character of football," Steinforth continues. This is particularly popular with younger target groups: "54% of American football fans are between 16 and 34 years old. The target group is predominantly young, male, well-educated and affluent," says Christan Koller, Vice President and Co-Head of Global Athlete & Team Marketing at SPORTFIVE, who is responsible for marketing the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany.

Particularly attractive for sponsors: American football allows them to reach a national audience. Fans love the sport itself and are less likely to support individual teams. "The community concept is very important for American football as a sport. This also makes it interesting for brands: it's about loyal target groups who are also extremely grateful that their sport is being promoted," explains Julian Neuburger, Senior Director Premium Partnerships International at SPORTFIVE.

Compared to football, American football is a more accessible product - many brands that are involved in it are also active in sponsorship for the first time due to the lower budgets. Another argument in favour of getting involved, according to Julian Neuburger: "One of the reasons why American football is so interesting for brands is that the sport still has a relatively 'clean slate' in Germany: Brands that want to create something new will find a good environment here."

Beyond the Match
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