NFL targets 50 million fans from marketing in China

The major sports code in the United States, the National Football League, is withdawing from the European market to focus on brand development in Asia. NFL Europa, born 16 years ago as the World League of American Football, lost money, ran through television partners, narrowed its trans-Atlantic focus largely to Germany and finally was shuttered yesterday. “It had some useful purpose in developing players,” John Mara, the co-owner of the Giants, told Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. “And at least we were able to find out if there was interest in our product. And there was some.” The NFL’s strategy will include shifting the playing some of its own regular-season games overseas. “If we can present two or three games a year, and fans are engaged in that experience, we will grow exponentially overseas,” Mark Waller, the senior vice president of NFL International, said. The Giants will play the Miami Dolphins on 28 October at Wembley Stadium in London. “All the tickets we’ve put on sale so far for the Wembley game have been sold out,” Waller said.

An American Bowl preseason game in China as been scheduled.for August 2009 at the National Stadium of Beijing. Titan Media has been contracted to be the official sports media partner of the NFL in China and NFL International is presently establishing an office in Beijing and will partner with the city to build fan interest in American football prior to the 2009 flagship event. For now, the NFL is thinking small. It's been sponsoring a school-age flag league involving 5,000 players in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and an NFL game is shown weekly on China's state-run CCTV.

Gordon Smeaton, an NFL vice president, said the NFL is about to announce a "much broader distribution of games" in the country. It may also change viewing times and may add more live telecasts. He told AP the annual Super Bowl telecast drew up to 10 million viewers. "The audience for the weekly game, we're happy with a couple of million people watching the game," Smeaton said. "That's where we are." He hinted that the NFL might use China as a market to test new technology. He also talked up online games. "We see a day in the not too distant future when Korean NFL fans will be on line with Chinese fans in Shanghai, or with Indonesians or with Tokyo." The NFL's target in China is men, ages 16-30, who have traveled and are interested in foreign cultures. That's as many as 50 million people.