The Rebranding of a Franchise: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also known as the Bucs, became the twenty-seventh franchise in the National Football League in April 1976. The team got off to a rough start with the inability to pass the ball, play defense, and most importantly, put points on the scoreboard. They became the first team in NFL history to lose all fourteen regular season games, which caused many excited fans to immediately lose faith. The organization knew it had to make some adjustments or success was doomed. The franchise finally underwent transformations in 1995, 1997, and 2002. The most recent changes have been deemed a success, helping the franchise become one of the most profitable in the league. The job is not over quite yet; there is plenty to do as the brand is monitored and grows even larger.

Read more about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers branding strategy in this Case Study

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London Before Los Angeles

Eventually Los Angeles and London will have their own National Football League franchises. Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear what he wants:

I want both [London and LA], but it doesn’t matter which one is first.”

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

It’s been almost two decades since the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams called L.A. home. The NFL Draft may be held in the City of Angels next year, but residents shouldn’t get too excited too soon because London will have a team first.

The league is just putting a lot of emphasis on playing abroad. Goodell said this to a crowd of fans in Europe last October:

 We are making sure we can bring more football to more people. The UK fans have been terrific. Seeing over 500,000 people the day before the game at a rally is really extraordinary. It is a signal that there is real interest in our game internationally.”

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Wembley Stadium

The NFL has gradually increased the number of International Series games at Wembley Stadium since 2007; this year there will be three games. There’s even talk they could play four games next year and five games in 2016. As Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker pointed out, L.A. has no games scheduled.

London is a new market with a ton of potential. Europeans haven’t been overexposed to American football, so they are loving every minute of it. Every game at Wembley has sold-out and television ratings in England keep increasing.

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London, England

Here’s another factor: London has a population of 8.3 million, while Los Angeles only has 3.8 million. That’s 4.5 million more wallets the league can try to open up — and that doesn’t even consider the folks who live elsewhere in Europe who are also interested in the NFL.

As the L.A. Times explained, staying out of L.A. may be the best move for right now:

This market has already lost two teams, and three if you count the short-lived L.A. Chargers. In that sense, it’s about as rock-solid reliable as a Hollywood marriage.”

Here’s the biggest hang-up: League officials have made it clear that L.A. lacks the proper stadium to house a team. Even experts have weighed in:

The political structure with funding stadiums is horrendous in the state of California. The other big challenge from having lived down in LA is the amount of transplants that live there.”

At a media event two weeks ago in Beverly Hills, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft backed up what everyone is saying:

“But like [Roger] said, the most important thing is to have the right facility. You have so many choices in L.A. of things to do. And the weather is great; the people are great. If you don’t have something really compelling, people won’t be there all the time.”

Here’s another hint at what’s to come: NFL officials have confirmed they’re shopping around for a new venue in London when the contract with Wembley expires in two years. Check out this previous blog post for more on that.

At least Goodell has given a timetable on when to expect an expansion across the Atlantic Ocean:

We actually couldn’t be more surprised by the tremendous demand for NFL football in London, in the UK in general, and frankly in Europe. So it’s not something that I think is 15 or 20 years away. It could be five or 10 years away.”

When you compile all the obvious signs, the NFL has made it pretty clear that it wants to get to Europe tomorrow. That’s the first item on their agenda. Plus, they’d become the only American professional sports league to have a team based in Europe. Maybe after they complete the task, then they can work on getting a franchise in L.A.

You Can’t Go Home If You Don’t Have a Home

It’s only a matter of time before the National Football League establishes a team in London, however they’ll first need a place to call home.

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Wembley Stadium

The NFL has been under contract since 2007 to play its International Series at Wembley Stadium through 2016, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

According to the Sports Business Journal, league officials have started exploring other venues. Chris Parsons, NFL senior vice president of international, confirmed it to the reporter:

Clearly Wembley gives us some great options. At the same time, Wembley also has England [soccer] games going on during the weeks we play. That is a challenge for us if we want to play more games, how we actually fit into the schedule.”

Even if the NFL didn’t have to work around soccer games at Wembley, it would be great if the league could continue playing sold-out games there, but that’s just not a reality.

We are constantly looking at where we can play, what options we might have. We would be stupid not to.”

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Wembley Stadium

Wembley is built for about 90,000 spectators, yet there are only about 84,000 available seats once you consider the space needed for the teams and broadcasting equipment.

Filling 84,000 seats for eight home games will never happen, as SBJ reports:

The average capacity at NFL teams’ venues last season was about 71,000.”

Wembley has nearly 2,000 more seats than MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. There’s no way a new franchise can expect to play in what could be the biggest NFL stadium.

The only reason the league can sell-out the venue now is because there are only a couple games a year, which creates more of a demand and carries a “can’t miss” vibe. The league will see if it adds four games in 2015 and possible five games in 2016, the demand may not be quite as high.

If the league wants to make this London franchise successful, it has to avoid empty seats.

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Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium is a possible alternative. It will reopen in 2016 after a lengthy renovation with around 54,000 seats. There is talk that it will have retractable bleachers near the field to accommodate football and soccer games.

London mayor Boris Johnson was in talks with league officials about Olympic Stadium just two years ago.

The talks were exploratory and we are at an early stage but the signs are encouraging.”

There’s even word of plans to build a soccer-football specific 58,000-seat venue to open in 2017.

Some suggest the NFL stay put in Wembley. Terry Byrne, a marketer, says:

The problem with playing in the home of an EPL team is that fans of other soccer clubs might not want to go to that venue even to watch American football.”

Either way, the NFL is going to have to find the perfect venue and step on some toes along the way. There aren’t many options, so finding the right one will be tough and will either make or break whether a team calls London home. Good luck, guys!

Good Luck Getting Americans to London

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Quarterback Peyton Manning

The Denver Broncos have the best road fans, according to a scientific analysis. The study found the team was the top ticket-selling road team in the National Football League last season. The Dallas CowboysSan Francisco 49ersNew England Patriots, and Green Bay Packers followed.

These fans consistently travel across the United States to see their teams compete, but will they follow them overseas if the NFL decides to put a franchise in the United Kingdom? Probably not.

It’s going to take a while for people to plan the trip, it’ll be expensive, and it’s more than just a weekend getaway.

While perusing the web, I came across an interesting article that Ben Koo wrote about his friend’s experience seeing the 49ers play the Jacksonville Jaguars last October.

The group of eight started planning the trip in April. He stayed in London for nine days. The total cost of the trip for ONE person? He says it was $3,000-$5,000:

  1. Plane – $1,250 roundtrip for economy seats from San Francisco to Heathrow
  2. Hotel – $225 for two twin beds
  3. Game Tickets – $225-$250 for upper deck at Wembley Stadium
  4. Transportation on the London Underground to Wembley – 34 ₤ for seven days
  5. Beers – 4-5 ₤ a piece, or about $5-$7
  6. Food – 8-12 ₤ for burgers, fish, and chips
  7. Various amounts for tourists sites

Don’t forget the majority of the NFL season is played when it is chilly outside. Travelers are going to have to pay extra to add jackets, gloves, and hats to their luggage.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a lot of people who have $5,000 they can just toss around for ONE football game, let alone take nine days off of work at one time.

Team Marketing Report, a publisher of sports marketing and sponsorship information, entry0000026_img000puts out a yearly Fan Cost Index.

Here’s the average costs for a family of four to see a NFL game in the U.S.:

  1. Tickets – $81.54
  2. Beer – $7.05 for two small cups
  3. Soft Drink – $4.48 for four small cups
  4. Hot Dog – $5.07 for four regular servings
  5. Parking – $30.57 for one car
  6. Program – $3.71 for two
  7. Hat – $21.60 for two least-expensive, adult-sized adjustable ones

When you add those numbers up, the total only comes out to $459.65. It’s a 3.7% increase from the previous season, but it’s nearly $4,500 cheaper than going across the Atlantic. Don’t forget — this is for four people.

By the way, the Cowboys had the highest Fan Cost Index of $634.78. That’s still a significant savings! The Cleveland Browns had the lowest Fan Cost Index of $343.80. That’s an even better savings!

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NFL on Regent Street in London

Even if Koo’s friend spent his entire savings to go across the pond, it sounds like the group had a good time:

There were a ton of people in every single NFL football jersey you could think of! We actually made it into a drinking game.”

Americans just aren’t going to go to the UK to catch a game. Sure, seeing a game in the U.S. isn’t quite the same as seeing one in London, but it’s too expensive for the average middle-class person. Times are tough. People have more important things to spend their money on, like college debt, credit card debt, childcare, car payments, etc. If the NFL establishes a team in England, it will be up to the locals to support them. They cannot rely on the Americans.