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Image Credit: Bleacher Report

Will the NFL’s international efforts last? (OP-ED)

Popular sports within the United States often differ from the rest of the world. That said, times are changing. Recent years have seen American sports like baseball and football attempt to make the leap forward across the pond. The NFL is one such American sports organization that has attempted to appeal to an international audience. However, will those efforts stand the test of time?

 The NFL has a sizable global fan base, with 410 million fans globally, making it one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. In 2022, the NFL set an international record of gaining over 2.2 billion in sponsorship revenue. Additionally, with an all-time high of 62.5 million people, it saw a 10% increase in international viewings during the 2023 Super Bowl.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the NFL takes its international crowd seriously, especially when popular teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers have shown interest in playing games in countries like Ireland and the UK. Additionally, the Steelers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New York Jets were also given marketing rights for Ireland by the NFL, according to AP news.

“Having a presence at all is such a massive change from even where it was 10 years ago,” said the announcer of the Dublin draft pick Stevie Howlin, to AP News. “Say if you wanted to buy a jersey, you’d have to go all over Cork — where I was living at the time — to try and find it and there was never any guarantee you would find one, whereas now most sports stores have NFL jerseys.”

However, it isn’t just the UK and Ireland. The NFL is looking to expand to Brazil as well. The country is already gearing up for its first official NFL game in 2024.

2024 is the first year of a lengthy plan by the NFL to establish a permanent international market. Eight games, including Brazil’s, will be played this year, with more expected to be added in 2025. The organization has been scouting international cities to host games, with Paris being one of many candidates. The NFL is also attempting to recruit international players, having already looked to Australia as a recruiting hub.

“When you start to talk about Asia, Pacific, and Australia, you talk about distance and logistics and the football component of that,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL head of international affairs. “So those factors are real. But our role is to look at the globe, look at where the fan base is strong and do the diligence, make the evaluations.”

The NFL’s international market is already looking to be in a good spot, but to keep it that way, the NFL should focus on actively connecting with fans in those markets and broadening outside of the U.S. cultural zeitgeist. 


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