Can British trio’s draft success drive NFL brand this side of the pond?
While the NFL draft normally passes with barely a ripple of noise amongst the British media three deals have made the hacks from Blighty sit up and take notice.
Menelik Watson hails from the mean streets of Manchester with a life story that has Hollywood script writers buzzing and was drafted in round two by the Oakland Raiders. Crawley-born linebacker Tom Wort has been signed as a free agent by the Tennessee Titans but following Watson to California is Lawrence Okoye * who has yet to play a competitive game of American Football. Okoye came twelfth in the final of the discus in London 2012 and has a place at Oxford waiting for him to study law but such was his prowess at the NFL Regional Combine (a test of fitness & agility skills) that the San Francisco 49ers no less, last year’s beaten Super Bowl finalists, have taken a gamble to acquire his services.
Call me cynical but is the emergence of the British player’s, in a year when the NFL comes to London twice in one season, actually part of longer term grand plan to take a stranglehold on the valuable UK and European markets? Is it also just a coincidence that Okoye has signed for the 49ers in the same season they head across to London for the second match at Wembley?
The NFL has been coming to Wembley regularly since 2007 and the Jaguars have signed a deal to play two home games a year for the next four years but in reality is this enough to satisfy the NFL money men? Their longer term goal is almost definitely a London based franchise but can you really generate incremental interest from fans in a ‘foreign’ sport without having stars that your new audience can relate to and aspire to be? We’ve had British players in the NFL before but three new players in one season is a step change and will only help increase audience engagement and interest in the sport.
It’s likely all just a fantastic coincidence for British NFL fans but one that will whet the collective appetite and if the trio succeed become another stepping stone to the London franchise – London Foxes anyone?
NFL world domination aside, if any brand in the UK was ever thinking of taking a punt in securing a sponsorship deal with the NFL then surely now is the time to do it (and our experienced Partnerships team would be happy to help). Okoye’s 49ers are joint favourites to win the Super Bowl next season (best priced 8/1 with Oddschecker.com) and what’s the betting that a 22 year old from Croydon has a hand in getting them there by following his own American dream?
Roll on September…
*Incidentally I met Okoye last January in the build up to the London Olympics and the terms ‘man mountain’ and ‘gentle giant’ were clearly invented for him. Lawrence seemed an all round nice guy and I wish him well for the intriguing season ahead. Trying to shoe-horn him into a client’s car (Alfa Romeo – Home Time Heroes) for a potential sponsorship deal was another matter and we politely had to pass up the opportunity! (Luckily we picked up Robbie Grabarz instead who went on to pick up a bronze medal in the high jump.)
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