Arturo Olivé
Director General
NFL México
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Insight

50 Years of Faithful Football Fandom

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 14:41

The US National Football League (NFL) officially returned to Mexico in 2016 when the Oakland Raiders beat the Houston Texans 27-20 in the first regular season game in the country since Mexico hosted the NFL’s first regular season game outside the US in 2005. According to Arturo Olivé, Director General of the NFL Mexico, the 2016 game was the result of years of hard work to transform Mexico into a profitable market, a goal that was achieved by creating customized solutions. “The Mexican and US markets are different and the way you sell and commercialize the brand is different.”

A clear example relates to licensing and merchandising, which in the US can be applied to specialized products like medical scrubs but in Mexico needs to be targeted to a broader population to guarantee profitability. “We have chosen to develop local suppliers to generate products at an accessible price for the base of the social pyramid and we help them reach retailers, such as Walmart, sports retailers and convenience stores. For the area of licensing and merchandising to be successful, we need to find ways to bring the products to the customer.”

Access to official merchandising is just part of the business equation, which in Mexico has four variables: media and marketing, sponsorships, merchandising and fan development. Making Mexico the No. 1 NFL fanbase outside the US has been a team effort, says Olivé. “The success of the NFL in Mexico is the result of joint efforts of all those involved, from the government, to TV stations, airports and people within the organization.”

American football is not new to Mexico, which is traditionally a soccer country. “Football has been played in Mexico for more than 100 years and the country has been a faithful supporter of the NFL for almost 50 years. It is a sport with a long tradition.” However, Olivé says that gaining recognition within the NFL has also been a feat in itself. “The NFL has been selling broadcasting rights to Televisa and TV Azteca for over 40 years but it was until 1998 that they decided to open an office in Mexico City.”

When it comes to broadcasting games, Olivé says Mexico is a leader, surpassing even the US. “We have the largest TV broadcasting on a national level. In the US, some games are only broadcasted regionally but in Mexico the nine games that are televised have national coverage.” TV coverage also implements what is called the “NFL Red Zone,” in which the broadcaster shows the best plays from every game. While this does not attract diehard fans, Olivé says the segment works perfectly for those who are just getting to know to the game. “Some traditional fans complain that with this modality they cannot watch the entire game, but in general we have had positive results and TV Azteca’s ratings have gone up as a result.”

Although TV broadcasting still attracts the biggest audience, Olivé says the NFL is exploring new channels to reach even more people, such as “NFL Game Pass,” a prepaid service that allows users to watch the game they want on the internet. “We need to make the NFL more accessible through different devices. This forces us to generate highquality content rather than niche content.”

Olivé says a key element to creating a successful brand such as the NFL is also having commercial partners to cover distribution. In Mexico, this is done through traditional products like beer and cars but also applies to other nontraditional sponsorships, such as milk and dairy. “A few years ago, some of our partners told us that they were paying us because we were the NFL but that their participation did not translate into additional sales. Fortunately, this has changed. Today, we are partnered with 25 companies for 35 official NFL products and we have positioned ourselves as a useful tool for them in terms of sales and promotion.”

The success of the NFL games held in Mexico City is just the tip of the iceberg and reflects all the hard work done in the country to create a healthy and sustainable business ecosystem that is beneficial for everyone, says Olivé. “Holding games in Mexico City is an example of the trust the organization has in us. For the NFL it is just one game but for Mexico it is an opportunity that cannot be missed.”