NFL teams use new rights to jockey for fans, revenue in UK

Sep 28, 2022, 8:20 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2022, 8:27 am
Supporters of the the The Minnesota Vikings team cheer at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhoo...

Supporters of the the The Minnesota Vikings team cheer at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

              Cheerleaders for the The Minnesota Vikings record a TikTok video at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
            
              Cheerleaders for the The Minnesota Vikings meet supporters of the team at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
            
              Cheerleaders for the The Minnesota Vikings check the footage after recording a TikTok video at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
            
              Cheerleders for the The Minnesota Vikings NFL team pose for pictures with supporters of the team at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
            
              Viktor the mascot for the The Minnesota Vikings team poses for pictures with a supporter of the team at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
            
              Supporters of the the The Minnesota Vikings team cheer at a fan interaction event at The Brotherhood Of Pursuits And Pastimes sports bar in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A half-dozen NFL teams are aggressively targeting fans in Britain now that they have new marketing rights in the country. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

LONDON (AP) — The “J-E-T-S” chants gave way to British-accented berating of quarterback Joe Flacco at the London sports pub where fans watched the Cincinnati Bengals ease to victory last week.

Sebastian Randazzo is optimistic, though. The young Englishman who founded a Jets fan club said interest in the NFL is “absolutely booming.”

“Hopefully we continue to see this grow with teams making their presence well-known in the U.K.,” he said Sunday. “It’s great for us fans.”

A half-dozen teams are aggressively targeting those fans after the NFL divvied up marketing rights in Britain. They’re signing commercial deals and hiring local media personalities in bids to expand their fanbases and tap international revenue.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are Britain’s unofficial home team — and are intent on preserving that status — but now they’re facing competition.

The San Francisco 49ers signed an agreement with radio station TalkSport to broadcast games. The Jets struck a deal with U.K. men’s clothing brand Charles Tyrwhitt.

They’re not just focused on London, either. The Chicago Bears held youth clinics in eight cities — including in Wales and Scotland — this summer. The Minnesota Vikings sent their mascot and cheerleaders to Manchester ahead of their game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“There’s a lot of upside. This is just the beginning,” said Martin Nance, Vikings executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

The Jaguars, though, aim to keep their status as top dog. They hired an NFL executive to oversee a relaunch of their brand in Britain. The Jags have played a game in London nearly every year since 2013 and will face the Denver Broncos on Oct. 30 in the first game of a three-year deal with Wembley Stadium.

“There are other teams in the marketplace, but it’s clear that we are doing more, we are investing more … both from a people standpoint and a monetary investment,” said Chad Johnson, the Jags’ chief operating officer. “Just because they have the rights in the market, doesn’t mean they’ve committed to play football games here … to multiple football games here.”

The jockeying has intensified in the buildup to three London games in October. It’s all a result of the NFL launching its international “home marketing area” program. Eighteen teams were awarded the rights — in various countries, eight in total — on five-year deals during which teams can sell sponsorships and merchandise, build their “global brands” and attract new fans.

The seven other countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Mexico and Spain. Some teams have rights in more than one country, like the Miami Dolphins with Brazil, Spain and the U.K. International expansion was one reason why the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule.

“These are under-tapped markets for us,” said Alex Chang, chief marketing officer for the 49ers, who hold rights in the U.K. and Mexico. “Now that we have rights there, we can do so much more with it. We can grow that fanbase a lot more proactively. It’s really pure upside here, but we have to invest in order to get to that upside.”

Teams didn’t disclose budgets or revenue projections, but Chang said the team has made a “sizeable investment” in the initiative.

The 49ers, who play in Mexico City on Nov. 21 against the Arizona Cardinals, are part-owners of Premier League soccer club Leeds and plan to hold their first official “watch party” with fans in the northern city during a game this month. They canceled an earlier one after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

“In this (five-year) period, we’ll look to play in the U.K. as well,” Chang said.

The Jets played in London last year and now work closely with fan groups to create “a constant drumbeat” of activity, team spokesman Eric Gelfand said.

It’s difficult to gauge potential revenue, but sports economist Victor Matheson of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts said it is instructive to consider the Premier League’s success in the United States. The league signed a six-year deal with NBC worth more than $2 billion despite playing no regular-season games in the U.S.

“The NFL would be thrilled to make the same sort of inroads into the U.K. as the Premier League has made into the U.S.,” said Matheson, adding that the league looks abroad because it has “pretty much maxed out the U.S. market.”

The Jags got approval in 2013 to do marketing in Britain, and the team raised the stakes with its new Wembley deal. That’s because the Jags — not the NFL — will be running the game, handling everything from catering to lucrative hospitality packages. For fans, it will look and feel like a true “home” game.

“We did take a chance,” said Maria Gigante, who left the NFL in January to become the Jags’ vice president of U.K. operations. “We slightly increased our ticket prices. We took on the execution of hospitality … and exceeded our goals.”

They expect a full house of 84,000 fans. At the team’s most-recent home game, a 24-0 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 18, the attendance was under 60,000.

Even with exchange-rate fluctuations, a Wembley game is “significantly more profitable” than a game in Jacksonville, said Johnson the chief operating officer.

The Jags have a history with Wembley, having played all but one of their eight London games there. Jags owner Shad Khan, who also owns Premier League club Fulham, even tried to buy the stadium from the English Football Association. The team is now spending money on capital improvements at Wembley.

There are conference calls with the NFL, and the teams collaborate on occasion, Gigante said, but it’s a competitive environment.

“For other teams, they are very much focused on global expansion and dipping their toes in the waters in different areas. For us, it’s about maximizing the opportunity in the U.K., it’s about being the U.K.’s team.”

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Australia's Mitchell Duke celebrates after he scored the opening goal during the World Cup group D ...
Associated Press

Australia beats Tunisia 1-0 to revive its World Cup campaign

AL WAKRAH, Qatar (AP) — Australia only needed to avoid defeat to stay in the World Cup. The Socceroos did more than that in a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday. Mitchell Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header and Australia went on to register its first win at […]
1 day ago
Al Gharafa Park is viewed in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Qatar unveiled a plan last Octob...
Associated Press

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — At a suburban park near Doha, the capital city of Qatar, cool air from vents in the ground blasted joggers on a November day that reached almost 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). The small park with air-conditioned paths is an apt illustration of World Cup host Qatar’s answers, so […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Fire sends smoke over Doha skyline during World Cup in Qatar

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatari authorities say a fire broke out Saturday at an under-construction building in a newly built city where a World Cup match was set to be played later in the evening, but caused no injuries. Qatar’s Interior Ministry said the fire started just after noon local time on an island that’s […]
1 day ago
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne in action during the World Cup group F soccer match between Belgium and C...
Associated Press

De Bruyne, Belgium need 2nd chance to impress at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne knew he didn’t play well in his team’s opening World Cup game. He said as much when he accepted the man of the match award. “I don’t know why I got the trophy,” De Bruyne said. “Maybe it’s because of my name.” With De Bruyne looking […]
1 day ago
Players warm up during Japan official training on the eve of the group E of World Cup soccer match ...
Associated Press

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — How big was Japan’s 2-1 upset of Germany in the opening round of the World Cup? Newspapers in Japan used the term “Daikimboshi” from sumo wrestling to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion. The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset […]
1 day ago
German players gather during a training session at the Al-Shamal stadium on the eve of the group E ...
Associated Press

Germany’s World Cup survival on the line against Spain

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — When the World Cup draw came out in April, one of the highlights of the group stage was Sunday’s Spain vs. Germany match at Al Bayt Stadium. Eight months later, the game between the two former world champions and pre-tournament favorites gained even more prominence thanks to Germany’s surprising loss to […]
1 day ago
NFL teams use new rights to jockey for fans, revenue in UK