The New York Jets were one of six NFL franchises in 2021 to be granted marketing rights in the UK to bolster its fan base and commercial opportunities as part of the league’s internationalisation strategy. 

John MacCarter, VP of Finance and Analytics for the Jets, discussed what makes the UK such a valuable market for NFL growth with Insider Sport. 

He also elaborated on  what strategies the franchise has been up to increase fan engagement in the country, as well as the commercial boost that was brought along with acquiring four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers

Insider Sport: Firstly John, could you let us in on some of the campaigns and successes you and the Jets have been able to achieve in the UK since acquiring marketing rights in 2021?  

John MacCarter: We’ve achieved success across multiple areas thanks to the efforts of many stakeholders at the Jets. Perhaps the biggest highlight was the girls flag football league we launched last year in partnership with the Chicago Bears. 

It was the first ever flag league just for girls in the UK, and we had twelve teams made up of 130 12–14-year-old girls participating in the London borough of Ealing. This was so important because it gave us the opportunity to create positive experiences for young women in the community while introducing them to the game of American Football. The League Champions even got to play on the pitch at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against their German counterparts following the NFL’s London Games.  

Beyond Flag Football, we also created UK-specific social channels with a unique voice that is separate from our domestic channel. The engagement data shows us the strategy is working. We’re growing rapidly on these channels, and we have seen those successes translate to success in the sponsorship realm as well. 

credit: New York Jets

Insider Sport: Has the team made any significant partnerships or collaborations with UK-based companies that has enabled the Jets to grow its commercial revenue?  

JM: Just like in the US, we seek partnerships that enhance the fan experience and elevate the brands. For example, we have partnered with London-based menswear brand Charles Tyrwhitt. The partnership not only included a Jets merchandise collaboration, but we also sent a Jets player to the Charles Tyrwhitt flagship store in London to capture content of a fitting for a custom-made suit that he then picked up in their NYC store when back in the states.  

We also partnered with Avery Dennison, a company that is doing some amazing things with embedded technology in merchandise. They were our title sponsor for a joint watch party we did in Manchester in collaboration with the Miami Dolphins with about 300 guests in attendance. 

Insider Sport: How important have the annual London games, whether at Wembley or the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, been in not only growing the Jets’ fanbase when competing but also the overall interest of the NFL to the UK audience?  

JM: These games are hugely important. We speak with a lot of fans in the UK, and the question we always get is “when are you playing in London?”. We consider a Jets game in the UK as an enormous opportunity for us to create one-of-a-kind experiences for our growing fanbase. 

Additionally, the games are important because the NFL has established a long-running presence in the UK, giving fans an opportunity to experience American Football in person.  What’s good for the NFL is good for the New York Jets.   

credit: Shutterstock

Insider Sport: What makes the UK a favourable destination to grow the NFL and the Jets’ brand more than other countries across the world? 

JM: There were several factors that put the UK on the top of our list. First, as mentioned, the NFL had already created a foundational presence in the UK for us to build on.  

Second, we have a shared culture and language with the UK that gives us a head start vs. other potential countries. Even though we are both English-speaking countries, our players have had a lot of fun leaning into the subtle differences between our colloquial words and phrases on our social channels.  

Third, we strongly believe that as world-class cultural and economic hubs, New York City and London are a terrific fit for each other and provide a natural linkage for both fans and potential commercial partners.  

credit: Shutterstock

Additionally, we had tremendous support to expand outreach into the UK because our owner, Woody Johnson, has a strong connection to the region, having served as the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2021.  

Insider Sport: How important is it having an asset like Aaron Rodgers in order to grow the Jets’ fanbase in the UK?  

JM: According to our research, Aaron Rodgers is either first or second in the UK in terms of popularity of NFL players, so he has definitely given us a boost. His presence helps us with fan engagement, giving us that extra hook for fans who are just experiencing us for the first time.  

One of our best performing UK social posts last year included Aaron hypothesising about which player on the Jets would be the best “King”. We did that surrounding the Coronation of King Charles III and QueenCamilla, again demonstrating how we’re generating content with a UK voice. Of course, our existing fans in the UK are also excited for all the potential he brings on the field. 

Insider Sport: Lastly John, and thank you for your time, are the Jets interested in expanding to other countries and if so, are there any on your radar in the coming years?  

JM: The NFL has identified internationalisation as a priority, as demonstrated by the fact that they are committing to play more and more games outside of the US.  

As such, we will be on the lookout for other opportunities through the lens of our experience here. But first and foremost, we want to make sure we are creating a unique and engaging experience for our UK fans. That is our focus. 

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