By: Jason Berg
Just like all brands do, the NFL is looking for ways to grow and expand their reach. In this case, they are trying to grow the game of American football in other countries and continents around the world. The NFL International Series has proved to be extremely beneficial for the NFL as they are tapping into new markets and audiences while earning extra revenue.
Although there have been many preseason games throughout the years played in other countries, the first international regular season NFL game came in 2005. In this game, the Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. After this was a huge success, the NFL founded the International Series in 2007, which debuted as the New York Giants played the Miami Dolphins in the world famous Wembley Stadium in London.
Since the NFL International Series was created in 2007, it has stayed consistent and effective. Besides the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there has been at least one game played internationally every year. While it started as one game per year, it has since grown to five games being played internationally this year.
Except for 2020, London has hosted at least one game every year since its first in 2007. There have been 36 total games played there. In 2008, the Buffalo Bills started playing one game per year in Toronto. Toronto hosted six Bills regular season games from 2008-2013 before they terminated the Toronto series in 2014. After hosting the original NFL international game, Mexico City didn’t host a game until 2016. From 2016-2022, Mexico City hosted 5 games. They will not be hosting an NFL game in 2023 due to renovations to the stadium, according to AS.
The NFL also expanded to Germany last season, as Munich hosted their first NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022. This was seen as a success as there were two more games played in Germany this season, this time in Frankfurt. Although it has not been confirmed, the NFL is expected to continue playing games in Germany in 2024.
Not only has the NFL International Series expanded their audience, the NFL has also earned many different partnerships. In 2020, the NFL partnered with 888sport, making them NFL’s official sports betting partner in the UK & Ireland. In 2022, they also partnered with La-Z-Boy, which made them the official furniture partner of the NFL London Games. In 2022, the NFL announced a partnership with Old El Paso, making them the official Mexican meal kit of the NFL. One of the most notable partnerships was announced earlier this year with Brand USA, making them a lead partner of the NFL in the UK and Ireland, presenting partner of the NFL London Games, and an official partner of the NFL in Germany. These are just a few of many NFL international partnerships with many more to come.
Regular season games played outside of the United States could just be the beginning for the NFL. There have been discussions about hosting the Super Bowl internationally or even getting an NFL franchise overseas. Although nothing has materialized, Roger Goodell said “It’s possible”, when asked about a possible international expansion, according to Yardbarker. Adam Schefter, a Senior NFL Insider at ESPN, also reported that the NFL has discussed the idea of playing a Super Bowl in London, according to NBC. While nothing has been confirmed, it looks more likely than it did just a few years ago.
The NFL International Series has proved to be a huge success so far. It has expanded their brand and audience around the world, given them partnerships and sponsorships, and increased their revenue greatly. While so much has happened between the NFL and their international audience in recent years, it may just be the beginning. With the success of the NFL expanding globally, the possibilities are endless for the future.