Why NFL struggles to reach people outside the U.S.?


There are many reasons Americans love to watch and practice football. Emotion, agony, thrill… these words describe the feelings you get while watching an NFL game from home and even while playing it too. The parity between teams plays a key role as well because it keeps the hope and desire to win alive every year, no matter what your team is. Obviously, not all teams are equal, but unlike other sports where there is a big favorite before the magic happens, in football, you never know what is coming. A good example that proves this point is the odds on sports betting sites, which do not show unbalanced numbers.

To U.S. culture, football could be the most iconic and representative sport. To society, it is also helpful and needed, as it teaches discipline, ethics, perseverance, and many other important values present in North America.

So then, why is it not popular elsewhere?

Too dangerous to be practiced in streets

One of the main reasons some sports are easily spread worldwide is the ease and safety of playing them on the streets. Soccer, basketball, tennis… are not a hazard to children or adults if not done correctly. Like football, same thing happens with boxing, F1, rugby… they might be entertaining to watch but hard to practice on a day-to-day basis.

At the end of the day, there is a reason why football players must wear helmets and other protective gear to cover their bodies… it is not a joke and must be done correctly.

While soccer can be played with just a ball and handmade goals, making it accessible to anyone anywhere, football requires certain equipment like pads, helmets, and proper fields. That is why even the poorest corners of the world are able to play soccer.

Complex rules and very specific positions in-field

Quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs… how points work, length of the game, overtimes, the vast number of players, lack of flow due to continuous stops, metric measures…

In a world where most popular sports are simple to understand, and the viewer does not need to fully know the rules, football is very different. For non-Americans (due to cultural differences), watching and playing a game can be a headache. They do not know what is going on. Why is it called football if you carry the ball with your hands? Why do you sometimes kick it? Why is the game stopped every 5 seconds? How do the scores work? These are very common questions a football fan has to deal with not once, but many, many times.

Marketing and Media coverage

To be able to compete in a globalized world, it is key to have a strong and efficient communications plan. It must be admitted that football does not attract the attention of people outside the U.S., therefore, it is even more complicated and requires more work to introduce this sport beyond its borders.

Comparing it to soccer, European football reaches a multitude of channels and airtime around the world. But when it comes to American football, outside of the U.S., media presence reduces drastically. Soccer clubs and players have become internationally known. Social media and video games like EA Sports FC (formerly known as FIFA) also help to expand soccer culture in various corners of the planet. The NFL’s initiatives, such as games played abroad, aim to spark interest, but these sporadic events are no match for the daily soccer content streaming into homes worldwide.

At the end of the day, all these issues address the fields that must be taken into consideration if the NFL really wants to expand its reach. The time zone does not help either, however, if worked on properly, it will not be a problem in the future. The United States has a strong product that deserves to cross borders.





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