By Barry Janoff
November 26, 2015: The NFL is planning to expand on its London town party in the U.K., and they won't be dancing with themselves.
In 2016. the NFL's U.K. International Series, which has seen 14 games played in London since 2007, includes two games in Wembley Stadium and for the first time one in Twickenham Stadium.
The former is part of a recently-signed extension that will see NFL teams in Wembley through 2020, the latter a new deal with the Rugby Football Union in which the league would play a minimum of three regular-season games at Twickenham Stadium in London over a three-year period.
“The passion our U.K. fans have shown for the NFL is overwhelming,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We are very appreciative of the strong and growing fan support, not only for the games, but for all of the related NFL events we host in the U.K. throughout the year.."
Beginning in 2018, the NFL will also play a minimum of two games per season in a new stadium that will be home venue to the Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League, to be scheduled concurrently with games in the two other U.K. stadiums.
The Jacksonville Jaguars recently extended their deal to play a game per year in the U.K. through 2020.
The NFL said it has a U.K. fan base of more than 13 million, and is eyeing growth while potentially projecting a franchise there by 2022. Sunday viewership of NFL games has more than doubled and the Super Bowl audience has increased more than 75%, according to the league, which continues to entrench itself in the U.K. also due in large part to the development of "new and stronger business partnerships."
A Super Bowl in London is in the mix of potential future developments.
Among the companies that are officially aligned with the NFL International Series and/or the NFL U.K. Web site are Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), DraftKings, Five Guys, Hyundai, Pepsi Max, Visa, Microsoft, Marriott, Papa John's, Virgin Atlantic, Majestic, Bose and Ion Camera.
"(A franchise by 2022 is) a realistic time frame," Mark Waller, evp-International for the NFL, told NFL.com. "But there are still things we need to test for, so we have to be able to build a lot of things into the next few years. We don't need to prove as much on the fan-demand side. We feel comfortable that, in a few years, we'll be where we need to be there. The real focus is doing things to keep testing. We're really focusing on the logistical and operational side."
The 2016 schedule will see the Indianapolis Colts vs. Jaguars in Wembley Stadium (Sunday, Oct. 2), St. Louis Rams vs. a TBD NFC East team in Twickenham Stadium (Sunday, Oct. 23) and the Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati Bengals in Wembley (Sunday, Oct. 30).
Of the previous 14 games played in the U.K., including three this season, only one drew fewer than 80,000 fans (Chicago Bears-Tampa Bay Buccaneers Oct. 23, 2011). The three games this season averaged more than 83,700.
The game between the Buffalo Bills and Jaguars this past Oct. 25 was the first global live stream of a regular season NFL game across devices.
"We’re going to have to continue to invest in that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more deeply."
Yahoo! paid some $20 million for the rights to stream the game, according to industry analysts. The game, which ran three hours and 15 minutes, saw fans stream more than 460 million total minutes, according to the league.
Dairy Queen was the pre-game show sponsor on Yahoo!, and Toyota sponsored the halftime show.
In addition, advertisers included American Express, Applebee’s, Arby's, Bose, Burlington Stores, Cadillac, Chrysler, CiCi’s Pizza, Citi, CompareCards.com, Danone Nations Cup, eHealth.com, Emirates Airline, Esurance, KFC, Kohl’s, Lincoln, Microsoft, Nationwide, Papa John's, Redd's Apple Ale, Snickers, Subway Restaurants, T-Mobile and Totino’s.
"What our next step is, I don’t know," said Goodell. "That’s something we’re going to have to evaluate. We believe that we are going to continue to grow there and that’s going to take work. We’re going to have to continue to invest in that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more deeply. And I’m optimistic that they will continue to respond positively, as they already have.”
NFL Goes Long, Extends International Series Alliance In Wembley Thru 2020
NFL Going Deep in U.K. Strategy With Another Three Games In London
Marketers Swimming Upstream For First NFL-Yahoo! Global Live Stream Game
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