Following yet another successful international series, it’s clear that the future of the NFL in Germany is incredibly promising – as Alexander Steinforth, General Manager of NFL Germany, told Decyfr: “The NFL is here to stay.”
Over the last two seasons, the popularity of the NFL in Germany has grown immensely, with the market now boasting a staggering 18 million fans, out of which 3.6 million are considered to be avid fans. However, Germany’s love affair with American football goes back a lot further than 2022.
“Germany has a very rich tradition of American football. It goes back to the NFL Europe days. It goes back even further than that, to the military days in 1945 when the first American troops played American football over here.
“So when you come over here, you’ll see that there’s a very well-educated fan base.”
??18 million German NFL fans, including 3.6m avid fans
? ~1m viewers on free-to-air TV each gameday
?Engaged and educated fan base
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) November 22, 2023
Not only do German NFL fans know football, but they’re already considered one of the sport’s most passionate – with a rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” now recognised as both fundamental to every NFL Germany game and a key reason for Tom Brady describing his visit to Germany, as “one of the great football experiences I’ve ever had.”
In the run-up to Brady’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, in Munich last November, the interest from German fans exceeded all expectations – with more than 1.5 million people registering for tickets.
Steinforth reflected on the event with Neil Reynolds, on the Decyfr Handoff Podcast: “We spoke to Ticketmaster, who is our ticketing partner, last year, and they said they’d never seen any event outside of the Super Bowl generate so much demand.
“It’s crazy, I mean if you look at those numbers, it’s nothing that the market has ever seen before for any sporting event in Germany – whether it’s a World Cup or a UEFA Champions League final.”
Since that first game, the interest from German fans has only grown. As former NFL defensive tackle, Markus Kuhn pointed out when discussing the most recent games in Frankfurt this year: “We have such growth year-on-year.
“Last year, people were shocked (by the demand for the NFL Munich Game) but the Kansas City Chiefs could have sold two million tickets (this year). Then the Patriots, the week after, had over three million people on the waiting list to buy tickets.
“Maybe next year it’s 10 million people waiting to buy tickets for a Germany game. They are so excited to have this game here.
“It also showed the NFL that it’s probably worth it to have more games here in the future.”
? “Maybe next year it’s 10 million people waiting to buy tickets.”
Former NFL defensive tackle @themarkuskuhn spoke to Decyfr about the remarkable growth of the sport in Germany ?? #Decyfr #NFL #NFLFrankfurtGames | @Patriots @NFLDeutschland pic.twitter.com/PTx88zQ9xO
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) November 17, 2023
Thanks to the league’s Global Markets Program (GMP), which allows franchises the opportunity to market themselves in different countries across the world, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs are in a position to capitalise on Germany’s insatiable appetite for the NFL.
Ahead of their respective Frankfurt games, the Patriots and Chiefs did exactly that, hosting fan activation events in order to maximise growth and engagement.
For Kansas City, this consisted of a Chiefs-themed boat on the banks of the Main River in Frankfurt, cleverly named the “ChampionShip,” to recognise the franchise’s three Super Bowl titles. The event offered fans various curated experiences and culminated in a watch-party, organised to showcase their game against the Dolphins.
New England took a relatively similar approach, providing fans with “Patriots Haus” – a three-day event where fans could take photos with all six of the team’s Super Bowl trophies and meet German Patriots legend, Sebastian Vollmer.
When discussing his contribution to the growth of the game in Germany with Decyfr, the two-time Super Bowl champion emphasised the importance of helping fans fall in love with the NFL: “The sport has given me so much and if I can play my little part of just introducing the brand, introducing the sport – it doesn’t mean you have to play, maybe just watch or try flag football or tailgate, if it makes you happy and you enjoy what you’re doing. I think it’s awesome.”
While Germany is yet to see more than two games in a single season, fans have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the game, with almost one million people tuning into German free TV for the NFL, every game-day.
Looking ahead to 2024, the NFL has already confirmed one more Germany game – with a return set to be staged in Munich – as they look to build off of the irrefutable success in 2022 and 2023. However, given the rapid growth in fandom, might there be room for more Germany games in the coming years?
?️ 'We had 1.5 million for the first game and over 3 million for the second!'
NFL Germany MD Alex Steinforth amazed @neilreynoldsnfl after revealing the “crazy” demand for tickets to the Frankfurt Games ??
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) July 19, 2023
As Steinforth told Decyfr: “I think what you’ve seen over the past couple of years, is that there’s definitely [an] appetite for much more NFL football that we can currently fulfil, even with two games.
“When we look at the engagement of fans, I think we are ahead of many other clubs, sports and leagues (in Germany). Fandom is the main KPI for us.”
The growth and excitement around the German NFL market was simply surmised by two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who told Decyfr: “I want to be looking at six, seven, eight games here – the fan base is just too massive not to.”
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