NFL in Germany: What it Means for The League's Future
By: Nick DiMeglio
The NFL’s aggressive revenue targets have been widely discussed in the media. Many wonder how a league that has already captivated its domestic market can find growth to reach its total revenue goal of $25 billion by 2027, up from $11 billion in 2021. Most know that media rights play a big part in any professional sports league's revenue growth. But, for the NFL this may be a bit tricky. The league has already reworked many of these agreements and restructured others with CBS, NBC, and Amazon Prime, locking them into long-term deals that have them slated to receive near historic numbers. So how does the NFL get to $25 billion? Media rights may have a part in it, but not in the traditional sense that we expect. They will have to look at international markets.
Around the world, American Football does not create quite the fandom it does in North America. Football/Soccer, and a handful of others rank well above American Football globally. Basketball and the NBA’s international efforts over the last decade have also earned the sport a higher ranking as well. The NFL has noticed this and initiated several programs and efforts over the last few years, such as the NFL International Series in London and Mexico which has seen success to the point that a series of Germany Games are being added. Another highlight is the International Player Pathway Program which has grown in recent years and has not just helped NFL clubs build a more talented roster, but also create a more loyal fanbase abroad, especially in the communities that produced the talent coming through the program.
The NFL has recently announced plans to expand upon these measures with the International Home Marketing Areas initiative. This will now allow 18 NFL teams to market and host in-person events, sell merchandise, etc. for a five-year time frame in an NFL selected market. Out of nearly nine countries including China, Brazil, and others, Germany seems to be the one that everyone is buzzing about, including the league. Germany is seen as an ideal candidate because of its high viewership (produced 2.2M viewers of Super Bowl LV). Also, Germany geographically is situated in a far better place than other European locations which allow for easier travel for teams entering from the US. Putting efforts into somewhere like the United Kingdom could put a financial burden on spectators traveling abroad due to higher airline costs. Also, Germany’s public transportation infrastructure is far superior which would allow those across Europe to easily travel by train to games. We can only wonder if this can produce an NFL Europa comeback?
Overall, the NFL has likely seen some of the efforts by its counterparts over at the NBA and realize they are reaching a point of saturation in North America, producing a motive for them to now go all in with Europe. Opening offices in Germany and focusing there will likely allow them the visibility and access to high consumer spending due to its standing as the largest economy in the EU, creating a real opportunity for football to spread across the remainder of the continent. It’s no doubt this is a strategic move by the NFL that they think will pay off with the potential lifetime value of tapping into such a fan base. For instance, Germany has sold the most units of EA Sports Madden video games, and for the last few years, they have had the most purchased Game Pass International subscriptions out of any country.
Bringing a franchise like the Kansas City Chiefs and its star-studded roster into the equation only adds more firepower to the situation. The Chiefs were one of the teams granted marketing rights in the country and with the ties that owner Clark Hunts has with FC Bayern Munich, it will surely be an advantage to them. This will likely drive fan relations that will produce growth for the league. Mix in the likes of the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we’re sure to see fan engagement continue to rise in Germany. Time will only tell what happens with these international initiatives by the NFL, especially in Germany but it definitely seems like a strategic way forward in reaching $25 billion in revenue annually in just five short years.