The NFL: In The Shadows Of Soccer But Still Popular

NFL: International Series-Munich City Scenes
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is one of the biggest sporting organizations and leagues in the world and has accumulated a legion of followers in the US and across the globe. Here in the US, the organization’s home market, the NFL is the most popular sporting league. Around two-fifths of the respondents in a survey by YouGov stated they had some interest in the NFL or that it was one of their top interests. The US’s northern neighbors in Canada have also shown a substantial interest in the league. Below is a look at the popularity of the NFL in the US, how some sports are more popular in some countries than others, at betting on sport (with a focus on New Zealand), the NFL’s popularity around the world, and what the organization does to attract new fans.

Warming To The NFL 

The Super Bowl is, without a doubt, one of the biggest events in sport. Despite the popularity of American football, however, it’s long existed in the shadows of soccer, which is undeniably the most popular sport in the world. According to statistics, more than 1.5 billion tuned into the World Cup 2022 final in Qatar, whereas fewer than 200 million people watched Super Bowl LVI live worldwide.

That might be a harsh statistic for the NFL to swallow, but this wasn’t expected to be the case. In an article on the website of the British newspaper The Guardian, there was speculation that the NFL was going to pose a serious challenge to the World Cup 2022 for TV ratings. The loyalty of Americans to the NFL had journalists asking if they would interrupt their following of the league, which was in full swing, and switch to the World Cup. It was a valid question since the US has become more receptive to soccer.

Different Countries, Different Passions

Soccer may have something of a monopoly on worldwide popularity, but when it comes to the rest of the world of sport, not all nations have the same passions for the same sports. 

For instance, in some Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Nepal, people love cricket almost as much as they do soccer. In China, basketball is attracting a bigger following than a lot of other sports. In Oceania, soccer is dominant in a lot of countries, except for Australia where citizens have displayed a preference for Australian rules football or cricket. Shift across the globe to some parts of South America or Central America and citizens happily follow baseball more than soccer.

Sports Betting And New Zealand

The world of sports betting means that even if a sport doesn’t enjoy major popularity, some people will still bet on it. That’s simply because players enjoy placing wagers on big events such as the Super Bowl, the Champions League final, or the World Cup, to name but a few. 

Out in New Zealand, rugby union gets a lot of attention, as do netball, basketball, soccer, and cricket. When it comes to sports betting in the country, New Zealanders can wager on several different sports at one of the sportsbooks available online. These include rugby, cricket, soccer, horse racing, basketball, and esports (the country even has its own sporting body, the New Zealand Esports Federation). 

The Growth Of The NFL

It’s always hard for a country’s national sport to enjoy high levels of popularity outside of the country it’s played in, but the NFL has risen to this challenge. In Mexico, a third of consumers in the YouGov poll stated they have an interest in the NFL, which may be a product of the organization’s efforts to promote itself and American football there. Between 2016 and 2019, Mexico City hosted a regular season NFL game there once each year. 

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in the UK, the NFL encounters stiff competition from various homegrown sports. However, a tenth of consumers in the poll still say they have some interest in the NFL or that it’s one of their top interests. London has regularly hosted NFL international matches series over the years, and these are always a big draw with teams like the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, and Jacksonville Jaguars all playing in the capital.

Promoting The NFL

The organization works hard to promote itself and attract new viewers. The regular season and international series games abroad have been one strategy. 

The formation of local commercial partnerships with sports betting companies has been another way, one example of this being NFLUK with a sports betting company. Germany has also done the same. 

A third way the organization has helped itself to grow has been through deals with broadcasters. Some TV networks have entire channels devoted to NFL games, news, and events, and some TV channels broadcast programs that focus on activities and events in the NFL. 

The NFL has a huge following both at home and abroad, despite the popularity of soccer. If you’ve not watched an NFL match before, why not check out some action on the grid and see why it’s become so popular?