|Alistair Kirkwood- Managing Director, NFL UK|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 12 March 2012 13:12
Do you think it would be possible to have a game of greater significance played at Wembley?
I first threw that idea to the previous commissioner a few years ago at an airport. I got probably the most telling look that anybody’s ever given me that just basically said that I was an absolute idiot. The biggest hurdle back then felt like getting teams to give up a home game. So, I said why not play a wildcard game and quite rightly I was told you can’t mess with the mechanism of the league. A team in the playoffs who have a home game, whether it’s because their record leading up the playoffs or how they played the previous week, should be rewarded with a home game.
We’re doing a few things. I’ll be honest, it’s not the focal point of what we do, the focal point is a top down strategy. Put games on, surround them with an exciting week of events and then maximise our TV coverage throughout the season because ultimately we are a TV sport. We are a sport which is difficult to play technically. You also need quite a few players as well. We’ve made a lot of progress with our amateur federation on growing the sport here. You’ve got more than 70 University teams from across the UK, which is great. But, we have for the first time, an all party parliamentary group of MPs that are looking after the interests of American Football, working with that federation. We’ve played a part in making that happen. The federation themselves are investing a lot through funding the NFL provides centrally to growing the sport as well. But, we’re not doing a lot in terms of helping kids playing the sport at mass levels.
For the Wembley game, we got ten different sponsors. It’s a mix of local [UK] sponsors doing great activation levels, doing perimeter advertising and getting involved in a lot of our events outside of Wembley. We also have three or four US based sponsors as well because what’s interesting about our sport is that we are the cleanest professional sport in terms of advertising. When you look on the field, you don’t have any logos on the uniforms. If you look at any American based game, you don’t have any perimeter advertising, there’s nothing on the field.
We’re unusual because we are the only game in the NFL with perimeter advertising. I think we are attractive to sponsors as a result because we have the most popular game played in America. Here’s an opportunity for them to differentiate and get their brand name out there in a way they wouldn’t be able to do normally.
What social media and digital media strategies do you adopt?
First of all we have our own website. We have a database of around 312,000 people now, which is really valuable for us and most of our ticket sales activity come from that database. The website itself allows us to get content out there that’s slightly different from a US audience. We have a good Facebook following. I think internationally we currently have 1.2 million Facebook followers of the NFL. We also have Game Pass, which is our digital offering that allows you to see games in HD that are not shown on TV. So, we interweave our social media with things that are revenue streams on that side.
The other thing I am interested in is using digital media in particular to demystify the game and make things more accessible because if you look at US websites they are aimed at people who know what the sport is about. We have a website that we designed a year and a half ago called NFL360 that we’re integrating into our current website right now, which acts as a team picker, gives you the dummy’s guide to every team to star players, how you actually follow the sport to rules of the game and using video content in different ways. In many ways digital media and social media is important to, not only does it get people excited about what their doing, but for us because we’re still trying to grow a fan base, it’s also helping us to break down a few barriers as well.