Wake up early this weekend and tune into the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, or Germany’s Bundesliga. If you do, you could be asking yourself why the American car manufacturer Chevrolet sponsors the Manchester United kit, or why Rakuten is emblazed across the red and blue shirts of FC Barcelona, or why Emirates, an airline based in Dubai, sponsors half a dozen top clubs in Spain, Italy, France, and England.
The simple answer is that these teams bring in millions of eyeballs, not just in their home countries, but around the world. These jersey sponsors are looking at the opportunity globally, way beyond the local or national level.
If you look at the annual Forbes list showing the most valuable sports teams in the world, you’ll see American teams like the Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots amongst the European soccer giants. But, how could they be so valuable when they don’t attract global audiences like soccer? There is no doubt that the NFL and its member teams want to continue to grow their sport and their fanbases around the globe to drive that value even higher.
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk as to how our domestic leagues can grow internationally, and conversations around moving a team to London have been heating up. If London had a team, how would that impact sponsorship? The team would certainly have its own set of local sponsors as every major league team does. Would American football become a little less “American” if there’s a team across the pond, at least in the eyes of global fans? But, does a team in “Europe” (you’ll have to set aside the politics of Brexit for this exercise) open the door for larger sponsors who have not been historically involved with American football?
We have already started to see foreign companies attracted to U.S. sports – last year, Turkish Airlines spent millions on a Super Bowl commercial starring Dr. Oz, and at the local level, Emirates Airlines ambassadors threw out the first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodgers game. With the focus of growing the sport abroad, it’s a natural progression that sponsorship sales teams will too cast their focus on international waters. It’s only a matter of time before we see one of these brands become the Official International Airlines Partner of the NFL.