Approximately 60 die-hard fans of the National Football League (NFL) gathered at Der Player, a fancy eatery in Hamburg, Germany, last month. They were dressed in jerseys and hoodies representing various NFL teams, such as the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, and Las Vegas Raiders. The purpose of their gathering was to watch a recording of “Prime Time Football Live,” a popular show on YouTube that attracts thousands of viewers.
At 7 p.m., Patrick Esume, a former coach and current commissioner of the semipro European League of Football, engaged the audience before leading them in a countdown to start the show. Esume introduced his fellow panelists, including former coach Andreas Nommensen, television commentator Mika Kaul, and former NFL player Kasim Edebali.
The show lasted for 90 minutes, during which they discussed the latest NFL games, asked the audience questions, and analyzed specific incidents in football games. The conversation flowed easily, with phrases like “bang-bang play,” “hard-nosed linebacker,” and “field possession” being used comfortably.
Esume kept the show lively and relied on Edebali’s expertise as a linebacker. They even demonstrated legal tackling techniques and discussed how to study opposing offenses. After the show, the audience gathered around the panelists for a group photo.
Jenni Gayk, a Chiefs fan who has been watching NFL games on German television since 2015, expressed her excitement about the interactive nature of the show and the increasing popularity of the NFL in Germany.
While soccer remains the dominant sport in Germany, the NFL has been growing rapidly in popularity. In fact, 3.6 million Germans identify as avid NFL fans, which is 25% more than in Britain, a country that has hosted regular-season NFL games since 2007.
Last year, the NFL played its first-ever regular-season game in Germany, which generated immense interest and sold out tickets within minutes. This year, tickets for the two games in Frankfurt also sold out quickly. The NFL has recognized this growing interest in Germany and has been actively seeking ways to capitalize on it, including opening an office in Düsseldorf and awarding exclusive marketing rights to five NFL teams in the country.
The New England Patriots, for example, hired German players Sebastian Vollmer and Markus Kuhn to work as German-language commentators, and the team has seen a rise in fan clubs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Similarly, the Kansas City Chiefs, whose owner also owns a soccer team, have been generating significant revenue through sponsorships and deals in Germany.
While the NFL’s growth in Germany has been impressive, sustaining this momentum is crucial. The league’s new media partner, RTL, will broadcast over 170 regular-season games in Germany. However, ratings have been mixed so far, and the increase in licensed merchandise sales this year is smaller than in previous years.
Football was introduced to Germany by American soldiers after World War II, and the first semipro league began in 1979. Since then, the NFL’s growth in Germany has been paralleled by players like Kasim Edebali, who made it to the NFL against all odds. Edebali became a folk hero to German football fans and is now working as a commentator for ProSieben, a TV network that broadcasts NFL games.
While there are challenges to overcome, such as the logistics of moving players and equipment between continents, the NFL remains committed to the long-term goal of expanding its presence in Europe. With targeted strategies and partnerships, the NFL has successfully attracted younger, educated audiences in Germany, making it an appealing platform for advertisers.
In conclusion, Germany’s passion for the NFL is evident, and the league is actively working to nurture and capitalize on this growing interest. Although obstacles remain, the NFL’s presence in Germany continues to thrive, and the league sees great potential for long-term growth.