The sport’s commercial chiefs view the UK as a gateway into Europe with ecommerce the core route to monetising fans in fast-growing but small markets. It is has set up an online store for the region where fans can personalise shirts with their own names and numbers on the back. The feature will be supported by additional products from NFL kit provider Nike’s online outlet as well at its NIketown store during the six-week NFL International Series this autumn.
Previously, international supporters were forced to order official apparel from the US version of the hubstore The NFL has struggled to translate the sport’s growing popularity into merchandise sales across Europe, admitting the scale is not yet there to justify pan-European retail partnerships. By stocking blank shirts, the business is able to let fans choose from all 52 players from each team. It previously only offered only two squad numbers.
Nike’s involvement reflects how the sport plans to create more localised activations with sponsors. A UK digital campaign is being developed with the sportswear maker ahead of the new season next month, featuring films from its NFL Films production unit. Meanwhile, apparel maker New Era will launch a marketing campaign to promote an apparel range for all 32 teams.
Teri Niadna, business development director at NFL UK, who replaced commercial director Ben Dunn last year, says work is underway to drive “season-long relevancy” through more local sponsors, online content and ecommerce. Several regional and global partners are set to be unveiled in the build-up to the season opener as well as a refresh of the UK site.
“We’re not at season-long relevancy yet but we’re investing a lot to get there”, adds Niadna. “We restructured [the commercial business] over the last year. We’ve now got a commercial programme that is flexible enough to give us that scale to reach the relatively small number of fans compared to the US over time. Whether its through regional campaigns with our sponsors, media, tickets and hospitality or ecommerce.
“We’ve struggled to give fans outside the US as many products as they want access to in the past. With the ecommerce platform in place, it means we can chase after fans when their teams get hot. [American football] is possibly the most unpredictable sport in the world. Teams go from worst to first every year and that can be difficult to product plan around.”
To support the commercial push, the league plans to promote its Netflix-style NFL Now service, which lets fans create customised content streams around their teams and fantasy league. Promotions for the Game Pass subscription service, which the business claims has between 70 and 80 per cent renewals each season, is also being prepped to increase its user base.