Kansas City Chiefs learning from Premier League, Formula 1 with German expansion, says team president Mark Donovan | NFL News

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The Kansas City Chiefs were awarded marketing rights in Germany

Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan says the NFL franchise is taking inspiration from the success of the Premier League and Formula 1 when it comes to approaching global expansion. 

It was announced on Wednesday that 18 teams had been awarded access to 26 territories across eight separate countries as part of the International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA) initiative, with the Chiefs securing marketing rights in Mexico and Germany.

The initiative is designed to pave the way for marketing, fan engagement and commercialisation that will enhance a team’s brand overseas while growing the NFL in international territories with a view to also playing games in the respective countries.

While the question over the NFL’s expansion has long surrounded an ‘ultimate goal’, what has become increasingly clear is that new possibilities, new opportunities and new ventures are appearing all the time as far as the league’s globe-trotting ambitions are concerned.

“We’ve learned a lot from the Premier League and teams that have gone through pretty massive international expansion,” Donovan told Sky Sports during an international media call. “If you look at the fanbase of a Premier League team it’s much broader than just their home country and we’re trying to model that.

“I think you’re right in that the objectives and goals change as things evolve but I think that also reflects where we are as a world. Everything is becoming smaller, there’s much more interaction, there are so many great examples of how people have taken the opportunity like this and utilised technology and creating more awareness, utilising content to create fans and create that passion and interaction.

“And, from a business perspective, that interaction creates business opportunities, so you look at what F1 has done with Drive to Survive, you look at what some Premier League teams have done with international expansion with tours, that’s the model we’re trying to follow, and what we’ve seen and the research we’ve done on those models is that the opportunities become exponential.

Travis Kelce's 34-yard dash in OT secures Kansas City Chiefs' seventh straight victory in week 15 against the LA Chargers

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Travis Kelce’s 34-yard dash in OT secures Kansas City Chiefs’ seventh straight victory in week 15 against the LA Chargers

Travis Kelce’s 34-yard dash in OT secures Kansas City Chiefs’ seventh straight victory in week 15 against the LA Chargers

“So today I can’t sit here and say there’s a specific goal, our first goal is just to create better awareness of the Kansas City Chiefs as part of the National Football League in Germany and hopefully that expands beyond Germany.”

While Donovan insists Munich will not be the Chiefs’ sole focus, the organisation does already hold a long-standing relationship with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich courtesy of their partnership with the Hunt family-owned FC Dallas in the MLS.

Munich is one of three finalist cities, alongside Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, competing for the opportunity to host regular-season games in Germany from 2022.

“We spent the last two years building a relationship with them [Bayern], understanding how they operate and how they have such a strong position in Germany and trying to watch what they did in expanding and leveraging their brand in the US,” explained Donovan. “And the lessons we can learn from that we can take towards a similar process of us expanding our brand in Germany.”

Kansas City will be able to activate in Germany and Mexico from as early as January 1, 2022, with fan events, local flag football activities, fan clubs, targeted marketing, local sponsorship deals and new digital properties on the team’s website and social channels among the plans to grow the organisation’s brand and support.

The other three clubs to secure rights in Germany include the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots, the latter of whom have German full-back Jakob Johnson on their roster. The Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers are, meanwhile, among the other teams with rights in Mexico.

“This is a long-term process,” said Donovan. “Our first focus will be on expanding the awareness of the Kansas City Chiefs as part of the NFL, fortunately we hold a pretty strong position in the German fanbase compared to other fanbases.

“We have a little bit of work to do there, we’re going to expand that awareness beyond the core fans that watch us every week.

“We fully expect to be on the ground in Germany in 2022 with activities, with functions around the Draft, around the Pro Bowl, around the Super Bowl and hopefully the opportunity to play a regular season game in Germany. That will also be a competitive process, I think all four of the clubs that have rights there would love to play over there but within the next few years we’d love to be on the ground playing a game.”

Chiefs president Mark Donovan on plans in Germany

Germany offers one of Europe’s most enthusiastic, invested and deepest NFL fanbases, having hosted five pre-season games between 1990 and 1994 as well as being represented by five teams in the former World League of American Football/NFL Europe/NFL Europa at various stages between 1991 and 2007.

So, why Germany? Why expansion? As Donovan alludes to, it is in the Chiefs’ DNA.

“The history of the NFL and history of the strength of the fans’ passion for NFL football, our founder Lamar Hunt was the ultimate innovator in sports, one of the things he focused on was expanding into new markets,” said Donovan.

“We played six games in international markets, four pre-season games and two regular-season games. He was a big believer in expanding and putting our brand in the markets and to create that affinity for fans.

“We know by real evidence that there are fans that became Kansas City Chiefs fans because of the American Bowl or some of the regular-season games, whether it’s in London or Mexico City. That opportunity is one he believed in.”


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