The Growth of the NFL - How American Football Captures the Rest of the World

Reading time: 5 minutes

The National Football League (NFL) has seen a significant increase in popularity outside of the United States in recent years. The NFL, America's most popular sports league, which has long been considered a staple of American culture, has managed to transcend borders and appeal to a global audience. This rise in popularity can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the globalization of media, the league's efforts to expand its international reach, and the growing interest in American football as a sport.

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the NFL's success outside of the US and will take a closer look at the league's efforts to promote the sport in other countries and the impact it has had on the global fan base. 

Expanding to international locations

One of the NFL's key success factors outside the U.S. is hosting regular-season games at international locations. Since 2007, the NFL has held its regular season games in London, and in recent years, games have also been held in Mexico and Canada. The debut in Europe took place in 2022, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks hosted the first-ever NFL regular-season game in Germany on November 13, 2022. The NFL took Munich by storm - a total of 69,811 fans from the United States and Europe attended the sold-out game at the Allianz Arena, which will soon be heading for another round.

Utilizing digital media to attract interest on and off the pitch

One of the major reasons for the NFL's success outside of the US is the increased access to the league's games and content through global media. With the rise of streaming services and the internet, it has become easier for fans around the world to watch live games. In Germany, American football has become the second most popular sport on German free TV. By a considerable margin, the NFL has established a firm place for itself in the sports interests of Germans. From April 2023, the network RTL will broadcast the NFL, bringing the sport further into the mainstream. Further, it’s strong social media presence with up to six figures further allows fans around the world to keep up with the latest news and analysis and the NFL also provides extensive coverage of games and events on its website, which is available in multiple languages.

Brand-building through talent development programs

The NFL has been actively working to expand its presence in China over the past few years, including a multi-year partnership agreement with a leading internet and technology company in China to live stream games and provide NFL content to Chinese audiences as well as holding events and initiatives such as the NFL China Flag tournament and NFL China Academy, to promote the sport and generate interest among Chinese fans to name a few. In 2020, the NFL China office announced that it will work with local partners to build stadiums and establish youth and grass-root American football programs throughout the country.

The success outside of the US

In short, the NFL's success outside of the US is due to a combination of factors, including hosting games in international locations, utilizing digital media to reach a global audience, and building relationships with media companies and developing youth programs in other countries.

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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