NFL’s global appeal remains lukewarm

Global Business

The sporting spotlight falls on Minneapolis this weekend as the city prepares to host Super Bowl 52. Some 110 million people are expected to watch the NFL finale on TV screens across the U.S.

But the rest of the globe’s seven billion people appear less captivated. It’s estimated just 50 million people will view the event outside of the U.S.

One market that could change that in the future is China.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

“We now have the ability where we can get direct to consumers. We can deliver our content, our games through various technology and media platforms that fans didn’t get the opportunity to have before. Would we like to accelerate that, yes. That is something we will do, and I think we will have better results over the next five years,” Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner said. 

The NFL has built a loyal global fan base with both Mexico City and London hosting regular season games. It raises the question as to whether China could soon follow. There are reports China may host a game in 2019. 

Last year, five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady undertook a promotional tour to China. He believes the country has real potential.   

“It was one of the great trips of my life. There’s a lot of interest on the game over there. There are people who love the sport who appreciate and obviously, it would be great to grow the sport. It is a sport I love. I know it obviously takes a big commitment to make the trip over there for the teams, and I am sure the NFL has to do a lot of things in order to make it a great trip. But it was one of the great highlights of my life,” Brady said. 

That view appears to have the backing of the Patriots owner.

“I think it is very important, and I think we have to do a better job of explaining our game to fans because if people understand the game, they understand the strategy the hard work, the planning. If you believe in the people left and right, you can do anything,” said Robert Kraft, New England Patriots Owner. 

In the short term, the NFL’s expansion plans appear to be centered on London. The U.K. capital hosted four regular season matches last year, all of which were sold out. The popularity could lead to establishing a franchise there. But the possibility of China also remains.

“If you look at an economy of more than a billion people and growth rates of six or seven percent in terms of GDP, yes there is a market there. How? Well American football, which is so different to any other sport, how long it would take you to develop in Delhi or Shanghai or Hong Kong? It’s a herculean task,” said Allen Sanderson, University of Chicago economics professor. 

For now, the focus for football fans is on Minneapolis. But the NFL’s global expansion hopes appear to be just beginning.

Ian Wishingrad on the NFL’s global expansion plans

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Ian Wishingrad, founder and creative director of BigEyedWish about the NFL’s expansion into London and Mexico City.