With eight more years of labor peace, $130 billion in new media deals, and soaring valuations, the NFL is looking to expand its international fanbase. The league has been working on various initiatives to increase its global presence, including the International Home Marketing Area (IHMA) program, which grants teams access to international areas for marketing, fan engagement, and commercialization.
Teams Embracing the IHMA Program
Since being granted commercial and marketing rights in Mexico, the San Francisco 49ers have built up their global marketing and sponsorship infrastructure. Out of the 32 NFL teams, 19 have joined the IHMA program, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots being among the most popular teams overseas. Meanwhile, teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints have opted not to participate in the program, at least not yet.
International Series and London Games
The IHMA program complements the NFL’s International Series, an annual set of games played outside of the U.S. The Jacksonville Jaguars committed to play one game per season in London’s Wembley Stadium starting in 2012, developing a solid following since. Although these games have yielded little to no profit, they are expected to pay off over time as the league builds relationships with brands for hybrid deals that are both international and U.S. local.
Expanding to Other Countries
Since 2007, the NFL has played regular season games in London, Mexico City, and Canada. The league has plans to expand to other countries, including Germany and China, as it seeks to become a truly global sport. The growing international fanbase in countries such as Mexico, Canada, and the UK reflects the league’s efforts to increase its global reach.
Developing International Players
The NFL has also been working to develop international players through programs such as the International Player Pathway Program. This initiative aims to identify and nurture talent from around the world, further solidifying the NFL’s status as a global sport with fans and players from all corners of the globe.