As the NFL continues its push to expand the league internationally, the league granted international home marketing rights to 18 different franchises. The rights span 26 different International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA) across eight different countries, giving franchises permission to treat these international destinations like home markets.
The agreements will last five years, starting on New Year’s Day 2022 and lasting until the end of 2026, and will open the new markets to activities normally only designated for home markets. That may include in-person and digital marketing initiatives, corporate sponsorships, events for youth football programs in the area as well as marking opportunities with other local sports franchises. The hope is this inaugural wave of access will help build the NFL and franchise brands globally and continue to help the sport break into new markets in a new way from the league’s international games of the last decade.
In addition to this initiative, all 32 NFL teams will play at least one game in an international market over the next eight years with the goal that all 18 franchises chosen in this initial offering will play in their new designated home market. Other clubs may submit a new proposal to the NFL’s International Committee for a yearly review of a new IHMA moving forward.
“NFL fandom begins with our clubs,” Christopher Halpin, the NFL’s Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy & Growth Officer, said in a news release. “This important initiative enables NFL teams to develop meaningful, direct relationships with NFL fans abroad, driving fan growth and avidity globally. We were very pleased with the number, creativity and level of commitment of club proposals across the board in this initial application period and look forward to teams launching their efforts early next year.”
Only three of the eight countries selected in this inaugural round of rights have actually hosted an NFL regular-season game before 2021. The league has steadily played a game in the United Kingdom for the past decade, and it has also taken games to Canada and Mexico in previous years. Australia hosted a preseason game in 1999 and China was scheduled to host a preseason game in 2007 before it was rescheduled and later cancelled. Germany is expected to host a game in 2022 or 2023 while there are no formal plans for a contest to take place in Brazil or Spain just yet.
Most of the franchises had specific ties to their new home markets either geographically or culturally. The Miami Dolphins, located in a community with a lot of residents of Latinx and/or Hispanic descent, were awarded Brazil and Spain as new IHMAs while the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, both on the Canadian border, were awarded rights in Canada. The Los Angeles Rams were awarded rights in Australia, China and Mexico. Germany will be split amongst the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Chicago Bears also have rights in Spain along with the Dolphins. In addition to the Rams, the Mexican market was also awarded to the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers. Finally, the United Kingdom’s contingent of host franchises are the Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dolphins, Vikings, New York Jets and 49ers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Joel Glazer is the chair of the NFL’s International Committee and stressed the importance of global engagement moving forward. In a release, he wrote, “Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in our efforts to broaden the NFL’s global reach by building long-term relationships with these international markets that will play a large role in the continued growth and expansion of our sport for years to come.”