By Alejandro Echeverria
Feb. 24, 2022
Photo Credit: Associated Press
For more than 10 years now, the NFL has been America’s most profitable sports league. With huge media deals, large contracts, and a variety of strategic partnerships, the NFL has achieved massive success financially, raking in $12.2 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.
The Super Bowl is second to only the World Cup in viewership. With soccer being the most popular sport in the world, this is understandable. However, the NFL does not want to remain in second place.
On Oct. 2, 2005, the NFL hosted a regular season game at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, the first regular season NFL game to be held outside of the U.S. Having had some preseason games abroad and a developmental league in Europe, this seemed like the logical next step for the NFL’s globalization efforts.
The game featured a winning performance for the Arizona Cardinals over the San Francisco 49ers, with the final score being 31-14. More than just a football game, this match in foreign territory was a smash hit, drawing 103,467 spectators, the NFL’s highest game attendance at the time. To put this number into perspective, the NFL’s current average spectators is only about 67,254.
Since then, the NFL has held seven regular season games in Mexico City, generating huge attendance figures and effectively increasing the Mexican NFL fanbase. After not being able to host a game in Mexico for the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the Covid pandemic, the NFL plans to return to Mexico for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
On Oct. 8, 2007, the NFL decided to adopt a similar approach to that in Mexico in the U.K., by hosting a regular season game at the iconic Wembley Stadium in London. This game saw the New York Giants defeat the Miami Dolphins, 13-10, in a successful effort from the NFL to bring eyes to the sport in the U.K. The NFL secured a deal to air the game on the British sports channel Sky Sports, and had the first 40,000 tickets sell out in only the first hour and a half of sales.
Following this success, the NFL brought two regular season games to London in 2013, and has continued to do so since, with the exclusion of the 2020 season due to the pandemic.
More recently, on Feb. 9, 2022, the NFL announced its expansion into the German market. In 2022, the NFL will host its first regular season game in Germany, with Munich and the Allianz Arena being the agreed upon venue. Playing at a stadium home to Germany’s most successful soccer club, FC Bayern Munich, the NFL hopes to put on a show and grow its German fanbase. Additionally, the NFL announced that Frankfurt will host games in the future.
Evidently, the NFL has made a clear push to grow its game around the world, hosting games in Mexico, England, and soon in Germany. Talks have been reported between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and London club, Tottenham Hotspur, on a potential Super Bowl being held in London, meaning there is no question that the NFL will continue to look for new ways to surpass soccer as the world’s most popular sport.
However, the question remains: can they do it without worsening the experience for their core American fanbase?