Jaguars Get Keys to U.K.

Jaguars-in-London

(from Sports Business Journal, October 15, 2012) As of this 2012-13 season, the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars will play one regular season game per year in London. The contract, which extends through 2016, is in response to the team’s recent difficulty selling tickets for home games, as Jacksonville is the fourth-smallest market by population in the NFL.  This extension marks the first time a U.S. sports team has achieved substantial sales and sponsorship rights overseas.

By NFL rule, teams are restricted to a 75-mile radius around their home stadiums. Thus Jaguars’ owner, Shahid Khan, initially pursued new marketability in surrounding territories such as Orlando. However, that area was already considered a Tampa Bay market sector.  So Khan and Jaguars’ President, Mark Lamping, constructed a set of conditions with the NFL allowing Jacksonville to expand their marketing rights outside the 75-mile radius restrictions.  The NFL essentially wanted to ensure that the Jaguars would not compete with the league’s international supporters and sponsors.  In addition, the Jaguars’ opponents in games played in London will only be allowed game-day marketing activation rights. For instance, the St. Louis Rams will play Jacksonville in London this year, but their rights to market in the U.K. will only exist during the day of the game.

This option to expand marketability rights is becoming more popular across the NFL, especially amongst small-market teams.  The Buffalo Bills annually play a game in Ontario, their Canadian neighbor.  Although this expansion is obviously on a smaller scale than the Jaguars’ expansion, the trend continues to gain interest.  The Minnesota Vikings have allegedly begun negotiations with the NFL to expand their marketability in a similar fashion, although Vikings President, Mark Wilf, has not commented on the organization’s intentions.

The drawback to expanding is evident in teams like the St. Louis Rams, who initially committed to a portion of games overseas, but rescinded their decision in fear of losing their market at home.  While Jacksonville has yet to see how this expansion will impact their home market, the organization seems confident that the move will help revitalize interest in their currently stagnant brand.