The NFL is hoping to capitalise on huge interest in Germany when it takes games there again for a second season, with the Kansas City taking on the Miami on Sunday with New England playingb Indianapolis the following weekend.Both fixtures are in Frankfurt.
The success of Tampa Bay v Seattle in Munich last year has heightened the anticipation among organisers that they can win over yet more fans in an untapped market. German NFL fans number in the millions – a barely tapped goldmine for teams and a league that has mostly maxed out domestically. The league says it has 18 million casual fans – that would be roughly one in five residents in Germany – and 3.6m “avid” ones.
“Most Germans don’t have a team yet,” said Alexander Steinforth, the NFL’s general manager for Germany. “We are reaching that state of maturity where you see fans are actively seeking out teams and are looking for teams that they can follow. That’s why the market is so exciting for franchises to be active in because they have a massive opportunity to pick up fans.”
The Chiefs and Patriots have commercial rights in Germany under the league’s global markets programme, as do Tampa Bay, Carolina and Atlanta. It means they can sign corporate sponsorship deals, hold events to attract fans and sell merchandise just as they do in their home markets.
For Kansas City, life is good. They are the defending Super Bowl champions and, with a 6-2 record, sit atop the AFC West. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the reigning MVP. Travis Kelce is having another big season and is attracting lots of attention as he appears to be in a relationship with Taylor Swift, which only adds to the buzz.
“It’s perfect timing for us as a franchise and we’re going to be very aggressive in taking full advantage of that,” the Chiefs president, Mark Donovan, said. The Chiefs have spent $1m (£820,000) in preparation and fan events for Frankfurt.
The team is docking a Chiefs-themed yacht in the Main river for fans who can have a selfie with the Lombardi trophy. The Chiefs and Patriots wanted last year’s first regular-season game in Munich, but that went to the Bucs and Tom Brady because NFC teams had the extra home game.
The Bucs beat Seattle at Allianz Arena in what Steinforth said was the NFL’s “most successful international game” in terms of viewership and merchandise sales. He added that German viewership this season on the free-to-air broadcaster RTL is up “nine to 10%” from a year ago.
Though five teams are in the market, the Chiefs and Patriots “have been the most aggressive and probably have the most foothold,” Donovan said. New England has some advantages, he added, “because they’ve been there longer and they have some German players and German radio and things like that. We definitely want to be No 1 in Germany.”
New England had a surge of interest after selecting the German offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer in 2009. They began pushing German content into the country. The Super Bowl titles kept coming, all coinciding with NFL games airing weekly on free TV network ProSieben. The league switched to the bigger RTL this season.
“I would say we are the No 1 (team) or we have been for many, many years, but we’re running up against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are doing really well right now and their popularity is soaring,” said Joe Dorant, the team’s senior director of business development for the region.
All six of New England’s Lombardi trophies will be on display for fans and photos at “Patriots Haus” downtown and alumni will be greeting the locals. But competing with Taylor Swift? “I don’t think we can,” Dorant said. “The only thing we can do is show the German people what the Patriot way is. We’ve been successful for many, many years – for a 20-year span. No other team can say that.”