Feb 8, 2024 - Business

Inside NFL’s plans to win global fans with Super Bowl 2024

Illustration of a football on a red carpet

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the National Football League, the Super Bowl isn't just the biggest game of the year — it's an opportunity to court an emerging group of younger, international viewers.

Why it matters: It's a lesson in how organizations can use big tentpole moments to draft off the news, promote their brand and reach new audiences.

Details: In the lead up to Sunday's game, the NFL will host more than 30 local events across Las Vegas to "enrich the local community and provide lasting legacies in the host city," says Samantha Roth, vice president of communications for the NFL.

Zoom in: For those watching at home, the NFL will run three ads during the game — one is a brand spot that will highlight its international appeal (check out the teaser here), while the others are cause spots focused on youth mental health and anti-bullying.

  • "We are tapping our biggest platform and using pretty substantial chunks of time within the game to raise awareness and share really important messages about the league and the causes we're focused on," says Roth.

State of play: The NFL has made major inroads attracting female fans — and Taylor Swift's attendance at games has given the league an extra jolt among Gen Z and millennial women.

  • Plus, Latino viewership has grown twice as fast as any other segment in the past year and currently makes up 17% of the NFL's total fan base.
  • And the league has appeal with young viewers in Europe and Asia, with Gen Z and millennials accounting for up to 65% of the audience, according to a recent S&P Global report.

What they're saying: "The Super Bowl has become really the confluence of competition, culture, community and commerce at the highest level," chief spokesperson for the NFL Brian McCarthy told Axios.

  • "The event is so unifying, that it brings people together unlike any other — whether they are in the stadium, at home or overseas serving in the military — and only the NFL could do that."

Yes, but: It wasn't long ago the NFL found itself entangled in divisive political debates after players started kneeling on the sidelines and later for imposing a vaccine mandate (which has since been lifted).

  • Politicization is something that any brand has to face, says McCarthy. "We may have a little more of a target on our back as the NFL, [but] we understand we do have that responsibility, we spend a lot of time talking to a lot of people, and what's good for the country is good for the NFL. We make decisions with that in mind."

What to watch: For this international momentum to continue, the NFL comms team will have to position the league as an All-American brand that can appeal to culturally diverse audiences and players, without alienating the current fan base.

  • The team, which currently has one full-time comms lead based in London, hopes to expand its resources across the globe, says NFL senior vice president of communications Katie Hill.
Go deeper