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

Reading time: 5 minutes

In recent years, the National Football League (NFL) has become increasingly popular outside of the United States. The NFL, America's most popular sports league, which has long been considered a staple of American culture, has managed to transcend borders and reach a global audience. This growing 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 for the NFL's success outside of the US and 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 most important factors in the NFL's success outside the US is the organisation of regular season games at international locations. Since 2007, the NFL has played some of its regular season games in London, and in recent years has also played in Mexico and Canada. The NFL's European debut took place in 2022, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks played the first-ever 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. So it's no surprise that Frankfurt hosted two National Football League games in 2023, breaking records once again. More than 100,000 fans watched the games live at Deutsche Bank Park and the NFL celebrated the highest merchandising sales on a match day outside the US. The logical consequence: NFL teams will come to Germany again in 2024.

Utilizing digital media to attract interest on and off the pitch

Another reason for the NFL's success outside the US is the increased access to the league's games and content through global media. The rise of streaming services and the internet have made it easier for fans around the world to watch games live. In Germany, American football has become the second most popular sport on German free TV. Together with broadcaster ProSieben, the NFL has established a firm place in the German public's interest in the sport. Cologne-based RTL has been broadcasting the NFL since April 2023, bringing the sport further into the mainstream. A strong social media presence with up to six figure followers keeps fans around the world up to date with the latest news and analysis, while the NFL's multilingual website provides in-depth coverage of games and events.

Brand-building through talent development programs

The NFL has also been actively working to expand its presence in China in recent years. This includes a multi-year partnership agreement with a leading internet and technology company in China to livestream games and deliver NFL content to Chinese audiences, as well as events and initiatives such as the NFL China Flag tournament and NFL China Academy to promote the sport and engage Chinese fans. 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 across 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 playing games in international locations, using 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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