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The NFL's Approach to London Games Provides Blueprint for Properties

London hosted the NFL’s first overseas regular season game in 2007. Steady increase in American football interest overseas has since followed. The NFL hosts three regular season games in London every year and has expanded its international series to also include games in Germany and Mexico. The league is exploring other global markets to host future regular season games. This hype has stirred up headlines recently by growing speculation around the possibility of a London Super Bowl.

After years of watching these international matchups from the comfort of my own home, I recently made the trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to see an NFL London Game in person. Here are some key takeaways from my experience and how the NFL’s patient fan cultivation strategy in London can be applied by properties looking to penetrate the U.S. market:

Broader NFL fandom superseded deep loyalty to the teams on the field.

Essentially every single NFL team was represented by fans attending the regular season matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. The game environment operated more as a celebration of American football and the opportunity to take in the sport in-person, rather than a deeply intense battle between two teams and their respected fanbases.

NFL London games provide a rare opportunity to socialize with other likeminded fans.

U.S.-based soccer fans are all too familiar with the ritual of pouring a cup of coffee to watch the English Premier League early in the morning. London-based American football fans have the inverse experience, watching NFL games late into the night. The NFL London Games provide the rare environment for local American football fans to watch games with other fans of the sport and create meaningful bonds through a shared love of the NFL.

Fans across Europe made the trip to London to watch the NFL in-person.

Most fans in attendance were American and British, but a large contingent of fans traveled to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium from around Europe. The emergence of regular season NFL games in Germany could impact the number of European fans traveling to London in the future, but London currently operates as a destination for passionate American football fans from across the continent.

The NFL rightfully positions its London Games as an established annual fixture rather than a special one-off event.

The NFL methodically cultivated a loyal London-based fanbase over the past 15+ years and their gameday environment reflects that commitment to sustained long-term fandom. The NFL-led gameday experience in London closely resembles a typical U.S. gameday experience in service of dedicated fans rather than casual one-off attendees.

The NFL London Games have evolved past the proof-of-concept stage and now operate as a blueprint for future international NFL games. I believe the NFL’s deliberate and patient approach to growth in emerging markets can be adopted by global soccer properties looking to solidify their footholds in the American sports market. The NFL London Games show us that sustained fan engagement must be cultivated over time rather than overnight.

GMR has a well-established history of developing long-term fan engagement strategies for both brands and properties. Reach out to learn more about how we can help your brand with a fan engagement strategy.