NFL unveils six teams who will market themselves in the UK

Six NFL teams have been granted access to market themselves and grow their respective fan bases in the United Kingdom with the launch of a ground-breaking NFL initiative.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers can begin activating in the UK from January 1, 2022 as part of the International Home Marketing Areas programme - an important, long-term, strategic effort to enable clubs to build their global brands and drive NFL fan growth internationally.

Under the NFL's American HMA rules, teams are permitted to market themselves within a 75-mile radius of their stadium.

"NFL fandom begins with our clubs," said Christopher Halpin, NFL Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy & Growth Officer. "This initiative enables the NFL to more effectively pursue its long-term fan growth efforts by empowering our teams to develop meaningful relationships and touchpoints that not only grow the number of NFL fans abroad but also drive fan avidity. We were very pleased with the number of proposals and level of commitment we received in this initial application period and look forward to teams launching their efforts early next year."

The Jaguars have been regular visitors to London since 2013, playing in every season apart from 2020 when games were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Jags have a 4-4 record in London with their most recent contest seeing them edge past the Miami Dolphins 23-20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in October. That thrilling contest was decided by Matthew Wright's 53-yard field goal as time expired, sparking wild celebrations and prompting Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence to say: "It was a really cool experience and to get my first win out here, it's special – I'll always remember this one."

"Since we first made the commitment in 2012 to play an annual home game in London, the Jaguars have experienced first-hand the overwhelming enthusiasm for American football in the United Kingdom," said Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. "Beyond the packed stadiums, more than 85,000 school children are playing JagTag, our simplified version of American football. That's real evidence of growth in the UK, and it will be only strengthened by the IHMA program that will focus on further developing the fanbase we helped to forge by playing games and having a year-round presence in London. Let me be the first to welcome the new NFL teams to the UK!"

The Dolphins have long been one of the most popular teams in the United Kingdom and have played five times in London. Like the Dolphins, the Chicago Bears have a strong fan base from their 1980s heyday and have played twice in the UK, defeating Tampa Bay in 2011 before losing to the Raiders in the first NFL game played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2019.

Tom Garfinkel, Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, said: "We are excited that the NFL has created this global initiative to allow teams to connect with their worldwide fanbases. The Miami Dolphins have an international brand with a passionate following in the UK. While our priority remains to service our fans in South Florida, we are committed to investing in and growing our presence internationally in the coming years with our UK fan clubs and partners through innovation, technology and local community impact."

The Vikings have played in London on two occasions, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 in 2013 and the Cleveland Browns 33-16 in 2017. Minnesota have also been one of the most active teams in the UK market, granting access for a weekly Inside the Vikings show on Sky Sports in 2013 and sending players past and present to NFL UK Live stage show tours with Kirk Cousins, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, John Sullivan, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and John Randle starring at the fan-facing events across the country.

"This is an excellent opportunity to directly engage with Vikings fans across the world, as well as grow our fan base and cultivate interest in the game of football," said Minnesota Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf. "We have seen the strength of our international Vikings fans during the team's previous games in London and with the launch of our UK Vikings social media channels in 2018, so this is another step toward deepening those relationships. We look forward to solidifying the activation elements and getting back to the UK in 2022 and future years."

The 49ers are one of the most storied franchises in NFL history and many British fans grew up on an American football diet of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice during a period of dominance which saw the NFC West side win five Super Bowls. San Francisco have played regular season games in London on two occasions, beating Denver in 2010 and Jacksonville in 2013. But their first NFL action in the UK came way back in 1988 in an American Bowl contest with the aforementioned Dolphins. Both Rice and Montana have since returned to the UK as ambassadors to the NFL Academy (Rice) and the London games (Montana).

San Francisco 49ers President Al Guido said: "As long-time members of the NFL's international committee, the 49ers know there's never been a better time to invest in the UK and we thank the NFL for granting us these rights. The first-hand perspective we've gained from twice playing in London and our ongoing investment in Leeds United provides our organization with a genuine appreciation for the UK. We look forward to employing unique strategies and compelling content to attract new fans and partners throughout the UK."

The Jets have played twice in London, beating the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in 2015 before dropping a close one 27-20 to Atlanta at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this season. They are owned by former United Stats Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson.

"International marketing clearly represents an enormous growth opportunity for both the NFL and the Jets,' said Hymie Elhai, President of the New York Jets. "We are excited to showcase our players and coaches and their personalities in the United Kingdom. Through grassroots programs, unique in-market activations and strategic partnerships we are excited to build upon our fanbase in the UK and look forward to establishing longstanding relationships."

The Chicago Bears have long been one of the most popular teams in the UK after their Super Bowl-winning team from 1985 sparked worldwide attention for one of the league's founder franchises. The Bears played an American Bowl preseason game at Wembley Stadium in 1986, they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in regular season action in 2011 and featured in the first regular season game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, falling to the Raiders.

"Being awarded the United Kingdom International Home Marketing Area by the league is an honor," said Chicago Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey, a member of the NFL's International Committee. "The Chicago Bears have a long history in the UK and one of the largest NFL fanbases there. We're excited to continue building on that passion and further grow the game of football abroad."

There is a theme running through five of the six clubs who are now focusing their international activities on the UK – they have made bold moves for exciting and promising young quarterbacks who could grow to become NFL stars in the coming years.

The Jags are led by first overall draft choice from 2021 in Lawrence, while New York are marshaled by the man picked directly after him in that selection process in Zach Wilson. San Francisco gave up three first-round draft choices to select Trey Lance with the third pick in 2021. Chicago grabbed the explosive and dynamic Justin Fields 11th overall.

Miami made Tua Tagovailoa a top five pick in 2020 and he has shown encouraging development and growth in his second season. Flying the flag for the veteran quarterbacks is Minnesota's Kirk Cousins, who currently ranks sixth in the league with a passer rating of 103.5.

As part of the International HMA program, clubs will have access to international markets for at least a five-year term, during which a club will have rights to pursue activities in that international market that are consistent with what they can do in their domestic HMA. This includes in-person and digital marketing, corporate sponsorship sales, fan events and activations, merchandise sales and co-marketing relationships with other sports and entertainment properties in the market.

Coupled with the League's commitment to International Games – all 32 clubs will play at least one international game in the next eight seasons – the League will use its best efforts to ensure clubs play their international games in their International HMAs, where possible.

Following the launch of this initiative, clubs may submit future proposals for International Committee review annually each spring.

Clubs granted International Home Marketing Areas, by market:

Table inside Article
Market Teams (s)
Australia Los Angeles Rams
Brazil Miami Dolphins
Canada Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks
China Los Angeles Rams
Germany Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mexico Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers
Spain Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
United Kingdom Chicago Bears, , Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers
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