The National Football League is looking to take the show on the road to Beijing, China maybe in 2018, as well as Germany, Mexico, and of course, London, England. China is a place where the NFL did not succeed in 2007. The NFL planned to send the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks to play a game exactly a year to the day prior to the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For whatever reason, the NFL pulled the pre-season game. The NFL even at one point pulled back of all its international efforts except in England.
The NFL needs to get beyond the United States to truly be a global presence, sure the NFL and college football and high school football are huge in America but the actual game failed in Toronto when the Buffalo Bills franchise attempted to play an annual game in Canada’s finance center. American football cannot compete with international football or soccer. The NFL falls way short of the other major sports leagues in the United States in exporting the game. Baseball has a lock on the Caribbean, the Pacific Rim and Australia. Basketball maybe the second biggest sport on the planet behind soccer, hockey while not as well developed globally as baseball or basketball does have the US, Canada and northern Europe as markets. Tennis and Golf are global as is track and field. The NFL gets little traction globally. The league is losing money by not exporting the game elsewhere but it is hard to believe that China has suddenly developed an interest in the NFL and football ten years after New York Jets owner Woody Johnson said China was not interested in the NFL. The league has not done any promotional work there of any consequence. A one off game might do well in Beijing or Germany but the NFL has an uphill battle to gain market share around the world.
Republished with permission Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.