Home Estate Planning What can the Premier League learn from NFL and the Super Bowl?

What can the Premier League learn from NFL and the Super Bowl?

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Richard Davies, Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, on the lessons the Premier League can learn from the Super Bowl.

Few events rival the commercial juggernaut that is the Super Bowl. Year after year, this American spectacle captivates audiences worldwide, boasting unparalleled viewership and revenue. While the Premier League stands as a commercial powerhouse in its own right, the NFL generates more revenue and its franchises are more profitable than Premier League clubs. So what lessons can be gleaned from the success of the Super Bowl across the pond?

Long form investments

One crucial distinction lies in the commercial models of US sports versus European football. The closed league structure of the NFL eliminates the spectre of relegation, allowing teams to focus on long-term investments without the fear of the financial cliff edge of relegation or failing to qualify for continental tournaments. Stricter cost caps prevent the runaway inflation of player wages and profitable franchises are the norm.

Moreover, newer stadiums in the US, often funded and owned by local authorities, offer greater commercial opportunities. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities, clubs can enhance the matchday experience, attract fans to spend more time onsite and generate additional revenue. While a number of English clubs have moved into more modern, commercially orientated stadiums, the majority are still playing catch-up.

The Super Bowl’s unrivalled ability to capture eyeballs is another key factor. Last Sunday’s Super Bowl game was reportedly viewed by a record 123m US households. The well-publicised romance between Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and pop superstar Taylor Swift whipped up a media frenzy and is believed to have attracted an even broader audience, alongside the traditional half-time show featuring Usher, amplifying the allure of the spectacle further.

Super Bowl only the surface

The ability of the NFL to take regular season games to countries outside of the US has also undoubtedly helped to grow a global fanbase. The small percentage of NFL media rights revenue currently generated outside of the US speaks both to the power of its domestic market and the huge potential for future growth.

Nonetheless, the Premier League’s commercial triumphs should not be underestimated. Yet certain commercial obstacles hinder European football clubs from matching the profitability of the NFL franchises.

Firstly, the intense competitive pressures on the pitch consume the vast majority of revenue in the form of player wages. As clubs vie for success, they invest heavily in on-field talent, which can limit investment in off-field infrastructure and commercial operations.

Another obstacle arises from the delicate balance between commercial pursuits and the preservation of traditions and local fanbases within football. English football clubs face a nuanced task of appealing to global audiences and delivering sponsor activations without alienating loyal supports or compromising on heritage.

Premier League lessons

For example, venues including Anfield, Old Trafford and Villa Park have never been commercialised with naming rights partners. In contrast, NFL teams, are not so constrained.

However, the influx of institutional (and increasingly American) capital into the Premier League could signal a shift towards a more American approach. Well-resourced owners focused on not just driving revenue growth, but also profitability, could lead to greater investment in state-of-the-art facilities, off-field operations and innovative marketing strategies. These owners are also likely to welcome an increasing focus on financial controls.

While looking to draw lessons from the Super Bowl, owners of Premier League clubs may look enviously at the US sports model. However, while some aspects of the model cannot be replicated in Europe, English clubs continue to grow more sophisticated off the pitch and will continue to invest in stadiums, content creation and creating direct relationships with fans worldwide.

If Taylor Swift started to date Jack Grealish in the near future, that would also help.

Richard Davies is Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys

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