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. Within minutes, all available tickets for the Chiefs' game against the Miami Dolphins were 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 in a very short time. More than 4.3 million fans tried to buy tickets for one of the two games. American football in Germany in Germany.

NFL International Games in Frankfurt and Munich

The NFL has long recognised the great passion of German fans for American football and the marketing potential for the sport and its teams. The largest American sports league will play some of its regular season games in Germany for at least four years. The venues will alternate between Munich and Frankfurt. According to the organisers, three million tickets had been sold for the first German match in November 2022 at Munich's Allianz Arena. Other "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 each year by the number of viewers of the Super Bowl. In 1999, 580,000 viewers watched the first free-to-air Super Bowl in Germany. By 2024, the TV audience had more than tripled: 2.12 million viewers tuned in at the middle of the night (CET) on 12 February 2024 to watch Patrick Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers.

RTL Group takes over broadcast rights

In 2023, the German 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 viewers in Germany," said RTL, explaining its acquisition of the rights. The laid-back NFL programmes on ProSiebenSat.1, which were also suitable for newcomers, have further increased the enthusiasm for American football in recent years. RTL Group’s coverage is likely to have given the sport an even wider reach.

A 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 in Germany. More clubs followed and the first games were played in 1979. In 1992, the NFL came to Germany for preseason games for the first time. Top German clubs such as the New Yorker Lions Braunschweig and the Hamburg Blue Devils dominated European competitions in the 1990s and 2000s. According to NFL boss Alexander Steinfort, from 2007 up to 15 per cent of spectators travelled from Germany to watch the annual NFL Europe games between two US teams at London's Wembley Stadium.

  • 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

"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 number two sport after football by 2024. The league is working consistently towards this and has created more and more touchpoints over the years. Since 2018, SPORTFIVE has been supporting the NFL as a marketing partner for its market entry in Germany, and since 2022 the global sports marketing agency has been working with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are one of five NFL teams currently 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 strengthen and expand the NFL's global presence. The NFL will gain additional momentum in Germany with 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 audiences: "54% of American football fans are between the ages of 16 and 34. 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.

Especially 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. It's about loyal target groups who are also very 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 of the brands involved are new to sponsorship because of their smaller budgets. According to Julian Neuburger, another argument in favour of getting involved: "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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