Has the NFL dropped the ball on internationalization?

As recent surveys appear to show, the NFL is still playing catchup compared to the NBA in terms of global popularity.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 in front of 70,000 people at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany in November, it marked the first NFL game to ever be played on German soil.

According to Bucs quarterback Tom Brady it was an amazing event:

“That was one of the great football experiences I’ve ever had.”

The crowd definitely got into the game and added to the atmosphere that included singing stadium classics such as “Sweet Caroline” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” long after the game had ended.

The sold-out Allianz Arena, home to German football (i.e. soccer) powerhouse Bayern Munich, provided a great stage for the NFL’s latest European showcase game, aimed to grow the league’s popularity across the pond.

In fact, the game was only one of four NFL games to be played outside of the United States in 2022. A growing trend it would seem.

However, according to findings from Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, the NFL still trails the NBA in several major markets, with the NBA’s popularity in China particularly impressive. The Chinese love affair with U.S. basketball took off in 2002 when Yao Ming was drafted by the Houston Rockets and went on to become an eight-time All-Star, but the game of basketball actually has deep roots in China. That is as opposed to American football, which hasn’t stopped the NFL from trying to tap into the huge Chinese market in recent years.

Having held some regular season games in London as part of the NFL International Series since 2007, the league’s relatively low popularity in the UK comes as a bit of a surprise and perhaps explains the NFL’s decision to bring games to Germany, where the NFL has risen in popularity in recent years.

This chart shows the share of sports fans in selected markets who follow the NFL/NBA.

Source: Statista

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!