Inside the NFL’s New International Home Marketing Areas

Since 2018, the NFL’s hold on American sports fans has steadily increased. This is, in part, thanks to the fact that multiple states have opened their doors to oddsmakers, which has generated new fan engagement for the league. For example, the rollout of sportsbooks that offer coverage on NFL predictions all season long has introduced long-time fans to in-depth pundit analysis.

Former armchair fantasy leaguers are now interested in predicting which teams and players will prove most influential in the post-season. Joe Burrow, for example, has been the subject of in-depth coverage since joining the Bengals in 2020 after nabbing the Heisman Trophy.

Though he missed out on his first Lombardi Trophy in February 2022, he’s sure to see added coverage in the future—and possibly even from new fans abroad. In mid-December 2021, the NFL announced a brand-new rollout of international marketing rights (IHMA) for 18 teams in eight countries worldwide.

Building on Local & Global Hype

The move comes after decades of pushes for global expansion, which current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has backed with full support. The change was announced at the tail-end of the 2021/22 season and will piggyback on a few additional changes in the league slated for the 2022 season start.

Aside from the Washington Football Team becoming the Commanders and a new rule for alternate helmets, 18 of the most popular NFL teams will now have marketing rights in a specific country. The change runs parallel to a build of the NFL’s International Series, which is piquing interest abroad by hosting regular season and exhibition games.

But even in the US, the league has seen renewed interest—in part thanks to states that have opened their doors to oddsmakers, helping generate new fan opportunities.

Staggered Distribution for 18 Teams

Though Burrow could see more coverage internationally, the Bengals have been left off the NFL’s international marketing scheme. Instead, the new rights deal focuses on teams that have built followings abroad, targeting the UK, Mexico, and Germany where their International Series are based.

The UK will see the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49ers engage in new marketing strategies, such as fan events, sponsorships, and merchandising.

Meanwhile, Germany will see new coverage on the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mexico will see the most action with nine NFL teams sharing marketing space; some, like the Chiefs and Dolphins, will see expansion into multiple countries.

Developing the International Series

Though Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, and Spain will also see expanded marketing opportunities that are designed to generate interest in football and help introduce the sport to athletes, the NFL’s primary goal is to build on the success of its International Series.

Since 2007, the US league has hosted the NFL London Games and the NFL Mexico Game (Mexico City) to generate excitement about the sport. The NFL will also expand into Germany, where it once hosted an American football league back in the early 2000s.

Munich will host a game in 2022 at the Allianz Arena, while Frankfurt will host a game at the Deutsche Bank Park in 2023. Originally, Goodell planned to kickstart interest by launching a new franchise in London. Back in 2016, Patriots owner Robert Kraft speculated it could be done as early as 2020.

However, a slew of challenges slowed progress for the dreams of a London franchise. In addition to concerns about hosting home and away games for a team stuck across the Atlantic Ocean, the NFL would face major trials in navigating red tape related to administrative, economic, and regulatory challenges for a cross-national sports league.

Instead, the NFL’s latest International Home Marketing Areas program will look to build on fan engagement and commercialize the league abroad. By working with fans from the ground up to generate local talent and interest, the NFL will be promoting a future where such international moves might be profitable enough to launch a new franchise abroad.

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.