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Why Should Every Sports League Host International Games?
Tracking the Success of the NFL's Germany Game and NBA's China Game
After a successful International Series in the UK, the NFL is now headed to Frankfurt, Germany where they will host their second ever game in the country. With an astounding number of attention and positive reviews from its first game last year in Munich, the NFL will continue to partner with Germany. Today we’ll be looking at why other sports leagues should also consider hosting these international games.
Dating Back to History
International games for US sports are not out of the ordinary. It dates back to 1984, when the NBA hosted it’s first global game series in Milan, Italy. The purpose of hosting games outside of the US was to promote the league itself to international fans, as well as finding new sponsors for the league and several teams.
Since then, the NBA has hosted 119 international games (86 pre-season and 33 regular season), ranging from popular host countries like Mexico, and recently expanding out to host countries like the UAE.
List of Countries Hosting the Most NBA Global Games:
Puerto Rico (6)
However, one of the most iconic events has to be the games hosted in China. The NBA hosted its first China game in 2004, as a homecoming game for 2002’s No.1 draft pick, Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets. At the time, 200 Million fans had watched Yao’s debut in the NBA, and has long waited for the star’s return to his home country.
The results were a huge success to the NBA’s viewership along with the Houston Rockets. The NBA China organization was officially founded in 2008, and the NBA signed a $500 Million deal with Tencent in 2015 regarding its broadcasting rights. The Houston Rockets would remain as China’s favorite team, signing various sponsorship deals on the way.
Fun Fact: NBA stars like Dwyane Wade and CJ McCollum also signed signature shoe deals with Chinese shoe maker brand Li-Ning
Following its success, other leagues like the NFL and MLB have also hosted multiple international series outside of the US. The NFL has signed multi-year deals with organization like the Tottenham Hotspurs, in hosting its games within the team’s stadium.
However, its most success is coming from none other than games hosted in Germany. Hosting its first game in 2022, Germany has become one of the most successful international series hosted by the NFL. With more than 3 Million fans requesting for tickets at a 70,000 seat game, we can see how much German fans were waiting for this moment. Following its success, the NFL has continued to host the international series in Germany this season, hosting 2 games this year in Frankfurt.
Upcoming International Series Schedule:
October 15th : Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans at London
November 5th : Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins at Frankfurt
November 12th : Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots at Frankfurt
One of the reasons for the success of any international game series is the nurturing of the sports culture and access to broadcasting systems. The NBA had provided broadcasting rights to China, building up more than 4 Million fans following their social media account, along with the NFL setting up NFL Europe, that has slowly developed a football culture amongst European fans.
And these growing fan bases eventually become a crucial element in the league’s business. According to Yahoo Finance, 10% of the NBA’s global revenue comes from China, with NBA China’s valuation reaching up to $5 Billion. We also expect similar numbers to come from Germany, as it is estimated that 1/4 of the German population (approximately 20.3 Million) are casual fans of the NFL.
With that in mind, we’re starting to see a lot of teams from other leagues venturing out for potential global partners. The Tottenham Hotspur of the EPL has successfully finished off its Asia Pacific Tour in 2023, visiting countries like Singapore, Australia and Thailand. Not only does this benefit the team and league in terms of global branding and viewership, it also gives an exclusive experience to the fans outside the borders.
It will be interesting to see where these leagues head off to next, and how they plan to expand beyond the domestic league.
Fun Fact: There has been rumors of the Tottenham Hotspurs trying to host Superbowl 2026 in London. Unfortunately, Superbowl 2026 will be held in San Francisco.
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