A Look Into The NFL’s Plans For International Expansion

photo credit: Pro Football Talk

– John Turner

There’s no doubting the NFL, with its elite ownership groups and revenue stream are in the market to do more business. Morning, noon, and night they are looking for every way they possibly can to get more eyes and dollars on their product. From the NFL’s year round calendar, to their ability to sell out just about anything, and them owning 28 of the top 100 most watched broadcasts last year, it should be a no brainer as to why they landed a new broadcasting deal with the networks worth well over $100 billion. Get this, the new deal actually has out clauses in it in the event the league feels it’s not being paid enough, at which time they can renegotiate a new deal! They know how to make money, that’s for sure, and if you’re good at something, never do it for free.

photo credit: Sporting News

So far, of the 31 games that have been played outside of the United States the league has pretty much sold out every single one of them dating back to 2007 when they began regular season play out and about. Crowds are close to 85,000 in Wembley Stadium. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium gets a little over 60,000 per game. Twickenham brings in close to 75,000 each time they host a game. Estadio Azteca in Mexico City also averages a little over 75,000 per contest. With numbers like these the league would only be leaving the church’s money on the floor if they weren’t pursuing more games outside of the mainland. Even with RedBird Capital owned, On Location Experiences, crowds in Great Britain are only made up of 3% traveling Americans. That’s a great sign as it shows the growth and popularity of the game and demand is on the rise with no signs of slowing down.

About On Location: “On Location Experiences, headquartered in New York City, is a premium experiential entertainment company whose mission is to partner with iconic rights holders to create, manage and execute once-in-a-lifetime, behind-the-scenes experiences at marquee global sports, music, entertainment, and lifestyle events. On Location Experiences owns and operates NFL On Location, the NFL’s Official Premium Hospitality Provider for the NFL’s marquee events, including the Super Bowl; Runaway Tours, the Official VIP Hospitality Provider for Jon Bon Jovi, in addition to other top artists; and Anthony Travel, the leading provider of travel and hospitality services for collegiate athletic events.” – Per RedBird. (I’ll explain later how this could very well tie in to the XFL/CFL potential business venture.)

The XFL plan I came up with long before there were talks of the XFL and CFL doing business

For as much as selling out these games do for the league financially at the gates, most of us know it’s the television deals where they make their bones. Last August the NFL renewed its deal with Sky Sports and will include a dedicated NFL channel moving forward, along with a slew of new features. The deal will be for five years and is set to expire right around the time the other deals the league has with the networks will reach the opt out clause, making it perfect timing for the league to once again double down. Of course by that time, the league will have made several strides to make it much more worth while for Sky or another company to go long on a bid. Some of the new content that’s a part of this new deal is as follows:

Sky Sports NFL viewers can look forward to the following:

  • Minimum of five live games each week
  • First-pick exclusive game on Sky Sports in the 6pm and 9pm slot every Sunday
  • Every Thursday Night, Sunday Night and Monday Night Football
  • NFL RedZone
  • Every minute of every playoff game, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl live
  • Flagship programming from NFL Network, including the popular Good Morning Footballand Total Access shows
  • Award-winning documentaries and other content from NFL Films and NBC Sports
  • Brand new weekly shows to review the action and discus the stories of the league, including original Sky Sports programming
  • Increased coverage across Sky Sports News, digital and social platforms
  • And much more… Per NFL
photo credit: Office Snapshots

As to what type of strides the league will have made by the time the current deal is up, well let’s unwrap some of that now. The NFL wants the teams to launch specific marketing strategies for the purpose of direct team engagement. As of now each team is prohibited from marketing outside of a 75 mile radius of their home market. This bylaw however is being updated to allow teams to choose a foreign market of their choice as a base of operations, and a home away from home market if you will. The foundation for all of this was laid in March of last season, but due do the pandemic… the league opted to shelve the idea for the following year at the earliest. As to the size of marketing campaign, it’s simple. Expect it to look exactly the way it does here in America. With each team deciding the direct market they wish to call their second home, it will come with a team office as well as a five year marketing strategy that will be league approved in order to maximize on the opportunity. Five years obviously matches up with the newly renewed deal with Sky Sports. Add that they’re likely to launch a year or two behind schedule due to Covid, these plans will have a couple rollover years. This will almost ensure a renewal due to proof being in the pudding by then. It’s also important to know that in other countries people do things at a different pace and aren’t as clingy to new fads in some places like Americans are. Most countries are also nowhere near as capitalistic either. The NFL is an all-systems-go style of operation and many spots around the world are slightly more laid back, to say the least. However five years is a great amount of time to exact a full plan, and not only hold a team accountable to the dedication to the project, but allow things to develop.

photo credit: Pro Image America

You can likely expect retail outlets to contain more NFL products but lean heavy on the team that is opening up shop there. You can probably also expect a two or three person panel on the local dedicated network to lean a little heavier on news concerning said team. This is the kind of thing that has helped the NFL push the casual fan into a more intimate variety. Not only do these methods familiarize locals with the logo and team name, but it also helps them start to create household names out players and coaches they start to recognize. Last and most certainly not least, let’s talk about what this does for the NFL International Pathway Program. If a team has primary marketing rights in an area that has already shown interest in supporting said team, it’s the fastest way to grow the interest organically by not only launching NFL youth leagues through their Play Football organization, but also making it clear that teams may dedicate X amount of roster spots to talent from the area. These are the kinds of things that build enough interest in order to get a metropolis and its surrounding area to not only start playing at the youth level, but at the high school and college level as well. Once you’ve reached that point it’s a wrap. What this will also do is, if done correct, it will quite possibly generate enough interest to make a team ponder whether it would like to permanently stay full time in the new secondary home, as well as give the league an option to base a new expansion franchise there.

photo credit: Populous

Right of the bat the league isn’t going to have all 32 teams select a separate market right out of the gates though. What we can probably expect to see is about four teams across about eight large global markets to start. Some will likely have a geographical tie and some may have a historic and or business venture tie. For example: Shahid Khan not only owns the Jacksonville Jaguars but also Fulham FC, located in London England. As he likely already has a fancy office set up there and is in the process of making major upgrades to Craven Cottage, I can’t imagine the Jags end up anywhere else. The Raiders, Chiefs, Cardinals, and Chargers have already played games in Mexico and likely have built a fan presence there as well. I imagine it also helps they quasi boarder the country in most of those cases. One might assume the Dallas Cowboys could easily fill Estadio BBVA in Monterrey. It’s not all that far from home, and it’s one of the more Americanized cities in the country. They have competitive wages and a good mixture of income classes. Plus how cool would it be to see Jerry Jones eating tacos on a Tuesday watching his team practice? Unfortunately they don’t have much to offer in yacht parking…

photo credit: Canadian Running Magazine

LA Rams to the brand new Japan National Stadium, anyone? Not only does the greater Los Angeles area boast a very substantial Japanese population, but this is a knockout new building to want to have on television for the world to see the game of football played in. Also with Tokyo being a major global market, having a Los Angeles based team there makes total sense.

photo credit: Archute
We also may find that the ramifications from allowing student athletes to make money may have a drastic impact on professional football.

photo credit: Birdair

Let’s take a look at the potential new home(s) of the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Jets. No shortage of Chinese people in those cities’, and like Los Angeles, it’s an opportunity to have very large markets get a chance to directly do business with and for each other. Washington is another melting pot I wouldn’t rule out to play in Japan or China versus Europe. No shortage of fantastic looking large stadiums that are guaranteed to be packed to the rafters, and no shortage of endless marketing potential.

photo credit: Sports Venue Business

Let’s hop back over to Europe for a moment, shall we? How many of you out there knew that Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney was the United States Ambassador for Ireland for four years? So you can pretty much chalk up the city of bridges to Dublin and AVIA stadium, although Croke Park also comes to mind. The Steelers however are in a very unique situation as they are probably the most popular team in the world outside of America. I once ran into a guy wearing a T-shirt he bought at a Steelers themed bar in Rome. They are literally everywhere.

photo credit: BBC

I think of cities like Miami and the first global connection I come up with is Brazil. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are both totally capable of hosting the game, which is in fact very popular there. If they can host the Olympics which has just about the highest demands of any sporting events… ever, they can host an NFL team with the right strategic marketing. Also I reckon the tailgate and post game scene would be lit down there. Last but not least let’s not forget the tennents that live upstairs from the meth lab that is America, Oh Canada. The Buffalo Bills have played games in Toronto. The Packers resemble the Edmonton Football Team, and the Seahawks are a little over two hours from Vancouver. Who knows, maybe all this movement could get a deal for a stadium in Nova Scotia, Windsor, or Quebec City. I wouldn’t rule any of it out once the NFL gets rolling on this. One thing we know is, the league isn’t going to try to force a team in any market. Each team is going to thoroughly research and reach out to those markets they deem potential suitors and come to a conclusion to make a plan accordingly, but is in fact happening sooner than you could’ve imagined.

photo credit: Sports Pro Media

So how exactly does and or could the XFL and or potentially the CFL play a role in all this? Well… If you’re old enough to remember early on in this piece I mentioned a company called RedBird Capital. This multi layered umbrella company has their hands in just about everything from insurance, to oil, to sports and entertainment. They are the company who, in a joint venture, helped Dwayne Johnson and Danny Garcia purchase the XFL and are likely at the helm of the negotiations to add on, via purchase, the CFL. I do not believe there will be a marketing partnership, and neither does a friend of mine, ex Ottawa Roughriders owner Lonie Glieberman. We believe that this is going to be an outright purchase and the merged leagues will expand at will and be a baby version of the NFL, while coming to an agreement with them in order to not step on the toes of the NFL empire. Both RedBird and Dwayne Johnson are very well traveled in business. RedBird does various lines of business all over the globe while Johnson did plenty of Passport punching starting with the WWE, while being known as The Rock. Put the marketability of Johnson, the savy business mind of Garcia, and the access to a plethora of business angles as well as… money of RedBird, you have everything you need to mimic what the NFL does on a smaller scale, that still generates hundreds of millions of dollars. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my friend Roger Kelly over at American Football International, it’s that there’s no shortage of football being played anywhere across the globe, nor is there a shortage of players available. If you build it, they will come. If you don’t believe Roger, just ask Mike Tackett, hell, just the other day I posted the Japanese college championship game from last year that’s available via his YouTube page.

I love all aspects of football, the game, the strategies, and the business end too… It’s A Football World, we’re all just passing through.

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PS: This doesn’t rule out expansion in the United States!!! So rejoice St. Louis, San Diego, Portland, San Antonio, Orlando, Austin, and all you other cities out there hoping to get a team. This is just simply confirmation that International expansion is in the works. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “A Look Into The NFL’s Plans For International Expansion

  • March 31, 2021 at 3:33 am

    I hope that with this international expansion we can hit those big football market such as Real Madrid or FC Barcelona. Get some if our room name players that international recognition and have their name up there with with messi.

  • March 31, 2021 at 10:55 am

    This may make some sense long term. I would hope that they could somehow preserve the the unique rules of the Canadian style game in the process.

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