NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league cannot keep up with the demand for regular-season games outside of the U.S. and must view media as an equal part of the international growth strategy. “The reality is that the demand for playing those games is greater than we have in the inventory,” Goodell said in an exclusive interview with Sports Business Journal. “But what we're trying to do is, it's a combination of the media, the events themselves, and our partnerships.” The NFL will play four games in London and one in Mexico City this season, 14 years after its first international regular-season game in Mexico. The games have drawn large crowds, suggesting interest in additional events. However, further expansion -- particularly a permanent franchise playing a full season in London -- would confront logistical and competitive issues that have not yet been solved. “I have no doubt that the fanbase and the commercial opportunity is there [for a franchise],” Goodell said. “Can we do it competitively? Can we do it where our 32 teams can compete at a competitive level? And that's critical. At the end of the day our game is our product.”
RESULTS FROM GAME PASS INT'L: Goodell said Game Pass Int'l, the NFL’s global direct-to-consumer product, has already helped make American football more popular in the U.K. and elsewhere, and can be further developed to that end. “That is an opportunity for us, and that's growing in double digits, it's extraordinary,” Goodell said. The Bears and Raiders open this season’s international series on Oct. 6 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is designed to host NFL games along with EPL contests. The league is returning to Mexico City this year despite last year’s cancellation of a game planned for Azteca Stadium because of poor field conditions. The NFL is also considering its path into China.
This is an excerpt from an exclusive interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, which will be published in the Sept. 2 issue of Sports Business Journal, a special edition dedicated to the NFL 100th season.
NFL corporate sponsors are finalizing activation plans with the season now just a week away. Beginning with next Thursday’s Packers-Bears season opener at Soldier Field, 37 corporate sponsors will be activating in support of 50 brands. Those brands will combine for a total of 64 football themed TV spots, an increase of 35 additional spots, NFL Senior VP/Sponsorship Management Tracie Rodburg said. There will also be more than 109 digital spots from NFL sponsors (17 from A-B InBev alone), and the TV and digital ads will employ more than 100 active and retired NFLers. A-B, one of the NFL’s most active sponsors, is expanding its NFL portfolio with its Bon & Viv brand (now the league’s official hard seltzer) in the rapidly expanding spiked seltzer category. A-B Head of U.S. Marketing Nick Kelly said his company is selling Bon & Viv at many of the 28 team venues where it has sponsorships, creating team themed cocktails using Bon & Viv, and leveraging those with on premise events. LED signage and sampling opportunities will support the sponsorship at NFL stadiums. “In spiked seltzer, we are a challenger brand (behind Mike’s Hard Lemonade, White Claw and Boston Beer’s Truly brand), so this is all about driving trial,’’ Kelly said. A-B will also be using its newfound group player rights to support Bud Light across the country with groups of players in point-of-sale and out-of-home advertising.
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE NFL: Many other sponsors are activating around the NFL’s kickoff.
Campbell’s will continue its “Mama’s Boy” campaign, with TV ads including Giants RB Saquon Barkley and his mother; and others with Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and his brothers.
Visa will debut an NFL 100 themed ad about generational fandom.
Verizon will rely on the power of the NFL to help with its 5G rollout, with activations in 12 stadiums.
New sponsor Lowe’s has two national TV ads and will sell some NFL licensed products in store and online.
Gatorade, the league’s oldest corporate sponsor, has spots with Rams RB Todd Gurley and Texans DE J.J. Watt planned.
Neutral site nonconference games have been a "staple of the Southeast region for years and such marquee matchups could be coming to the Pac-12 footprint in the near future," according to James Crepea of the Portland OREGONIAN. The under-construction Inglewood stadium is "interested," and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas already plans to host Arizona-BYU to open the '21 season. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, "It’s been a priority for us to create more of those opportunities, to support more opportunities of those (games) for our schools, particularly closer to home." This Saturday, Oregon opens the season against Auburn in the Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Oregon previously played LSU in Dallas in '11, and USC is scheduled to face Alabama at AT&T Stadium to open the '20 season. Oregon is also scheduled to play Georgia in the '22 Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosted Washington and Auburn to open the '18 season (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/29).
SEC COUNTRY: The AP's Steve Megaree noted Alabama meets Duke in Atlanta on Saturday and South Carolina plays UNC at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. But these neutral-site showdowns "might not be so common several years from now." More of them "eventually could take place on campuses instead of NFL stadiums." SEC schools are "upgrading future schedules by adding noteworthy home-and-home nonconference series, though some of those games are a decade away from happening." The SEC has "led all conferences in average attendance every year" since '98, but it is "not immune to recent industry-wide struggles to attract spectators." ADs have said that fans "want stronger home schedules," and programs "often make more money from a home game than a neutral-site contest." But Peach Bowl President & CEO Gary Stokan, who oversees the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, "believes neutral-site games will keep thriving even as more teams add home-and-home series." Mercedes-Benz Stadium will "host eight Chick-fil-A regular-season matchups" from '20-24, including three next season (AP, 8/28).
NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE: Kansas State AD Gene Taylor said that they are "exploring the possibility of moving at least one of their future home games to a neutral venue," most likely Arrowhead Stadium or AT&T Stadium. Taylor: "We have had some interest and a couple stadiums that have asked us to consider it.” But he "cautioned a deal was far from imminent." In Wichita, Kellis Robinett notes the "most likely future K-State football game that could receive a venue switch seems to be Stanford" in '21. Not only is it an "appealing matchup for a neutral-site game between Big 12 and Pac-12 opponents, but the Wildcats currently have eight home games" slated for the '21 season. Taylor's comments also came one day after Missouri agreed to move their '20 regular-season home finale against Arkansas, as well as another future game, to Arrowhead Stadium (WICHITA EAGLE, 8/29).