New NFL unit goes after int'l fans

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The National Football League has created a new international division to market its brand of football outside the U.S. NFL International will oversee various efforts previously run by the league's NFL Properties marketing arm, as well as look into new opportunities abroad.


Heading up NFL International, with the title of senior VP-managing director, is Don Garber. Succeeding Mr. Garber as VP-business development at NFL Properties is David Newman, although he will hold the title of VP-events. The NFL's World League in Europe won't fall under NFL International's purview, but the division will look for ways to cross-promote with and support that organization.

The NFL has been in the international business for years, but those forays--like licensing, broadcasting and the World League--were overseen by various divisions of NFL Properties. "What has recently happened was that the league made a determination to put all of the business under one umbrella," Mr. Garber said. "Now that we've done that, we're creating within this structure a development group to develop new opportunities and grow our fan base abroad."


NFL International will soon begin market research in the key regions of Canada, Europe, Japan and Mexico. That effort will resemble research the NFL conducted about two years ago that led to major changes in sponsorship and marketing philosophy and in the creation of grass-roots marketing. Mr. Garber is already brainstorming about how to educate foreign consumers about U.S.-style football.

"One of the biggest obstacles to developing fan avidity is that people in Spain or the Netherlands just don't understand the game," he said. Mr. Garber's plans include creating TV packages of game highlights that would also include brief, entertaining segments about the game and its rules. Mr. Garber said he envisions grass-roots football programs created by the league and implemented through sports clubs or World League teams in each of their markets.


He also said the NFL is looking at forming a joint venture with an event marketing company to create an overseas event-based grass-roots vehicle. Different countries will see customized programs that speak to their respective cultures. In Japan, where there is great interest in playing the game, Mr. Garber wants next year to bring Punt, Pass & Kick, the NFL's successful U.S. skills competition for kids. In Europe, he wants to create "football festivals," combining music, interactive games and football.

"We're going to develop a region-by-region strategy," Mr. Garber said. "We don't think there is a single strategy, one that will work in Japan as it will in Mexico."

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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