By Barry Janoff
November 7, 2014: The NFL continues to forge alliances with marketers, fans and media in U.K., unveiling the three games that will comprise the 2015 International Series.
For those keeping score, the Miami Dolphins will host the New York Jets on Oct. 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 25, and the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Detroit Lions on Nov. 1, all on Sundays and all in Wembley Stadium.
The game times will be announced at a later date.
The trio of games matches the three being played in London this season, the most regular season games to be staged in London in any single season.
The decision was not all that difficult. Of the ten NFL games already played in Wembley dating back to 2007, only one drew fewer than 77,000, with a high of 84,254 who attended the New England Patriots-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in 2009.
On Oct. 26, 83,532 fans saw the Lions defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 22-12. On Sept. 28, the Dolphins defeated the Oakland Raiders, 38-14, in front of 83,436 fans in Wembley.
The NFL this weekend is playing its 11th game in London when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Jaguars. Under the majority ownership of Shahid Khan, who also is the majority owner of the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League, the Jags have become the de facto home team in London, with Sunday's game the team's second of four games scheduled in the British city.
Among the companies that have officially aligned with the NFL in London are Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Jeep, Marriott, Microsoft, Papa John's, Pepsi Max, Virgin Atlantic, Visa and FedEx.
“We are very appreciative of the outstanding support from our fans in the U.K., not only for the games at Wembley, but for all of the related NFL events we have hosted throughout the city,” Mark Waller, the NFL's evp-International, said in a statement. “We believe we have a great 2015 schedule that will continue to attract new fans to our sport and strengthen the bonds with our existing fans.
The NFL International Series is part of the NFL's efforts to gauge whether or not to put a franchise and play a Super Bowl in London.
“I believe that the response to the third game in the U.K., and the way that the fans have embraced that, sold that out in such a short period of time is just another indication that the more we give fans in the U.K., of NFL football, the more they want,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a state of the NFL media event at the Super Bowl earlier this year. “That’s a great tribute to the fans there, and their passion.
“I believe you are further down the road because you are now three games into it. What our next step is, I don’t know," said Goodell. "That’s something we’re going to have to evaluate. We believe that we are going to continue to grow there and that’s going to take work. We’re going to have to continue to invest in that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more deeply. And I’m optimistic that they will continue to respond positively, as they already have.”
Three teams will play regular-season games in the U.K. for the first time — Buffalo, Kansas City and the Jets — bring to 20 the number of different teams to play in the International Series in London since it began in 2007.
According to the NFL, TV ratings have shown "substantial growth in the UK since 2006, with Sunday viewership of NFL games doubling and the Super Bowl audience having increased 75%."
The league said it has also "developed new and stronger business partnerships" and that participation in amateur football in the U.K. "has risen since the start of the International Series by approximately 15% per year since 2007."
According to Waller, "To provide U.K. fans the opportunity to see games on consecutive weekends, to see new teams, and to attend a division game, which feature some of the most passionate rivalries in our sport, are signs of the growth and depth of our U.K. fan base.”