Sports fans come in many shapes and sizes. Some love anything competitive – from tennis to NFL, hockey to basketball, curling to judo. Others are fans of specific sports. Some may be enamored completely by the cricket but find other forms of competition boring; but, generally, sports fans have the base interest to be turned onto other sports too. As American football is gaining more fans outside the USA, how can the sport win over fans of soccer?
American football is not as rare around the world as people might expect. If the 2021 Super Bowl told us anything, it’s that a wide range of UK fans, for instance, watched or engaged in some way with the sport. The broadcasting of American football games has expanded greatly since 1995 with Sky and the BBC offering them. One of the issues with watching the games is that they typically air on Sunday nights past midnight, which may deter some potential fans.
There are countless university American football teams in the UK and the number of people joining is growing. This could perhaps be because university-level play for sports more commonly played in the country – such as football and rugby – may be too advanced for new players: with many British students having already played these games a lot, the competition to get onto teams is high. But as most people over in Britain are new to American football, there are more opportunities to enter the sport and progress alongside the others on the team. American football is therefore a possible choice for those wanting to get into a university-level sport and marketing it as such could boost interest in the professional sport.
One of the most interesting aspects when it comes to winning over soccer fans is the ability for them to select the team they choose to support. Most UK football fans are tied to a team – whether they like it or not – based on a family tradition or on where they live or were born. Similarly, Green Bay Packers fans are probably most concentrated in Wisconsin, where residents have a favorable opinion of Aaron Rodgers – a clear sign of their devotion to the local team.
But one of the pulls for soccer fans for getting into a new sport could be the ability to select a team to support out of choice rather than obligation. They are free to check the analysis and data of each team and swear fealty to one based on more information than they may have had when deciding their childhood soccer heroes.
The ability to bet on both soccer and the NFL should also help soccer fans find common ground with the game they may be unfamiliar with. Many people choose to bet on soccer, and it helps them feel an added element of tension when watching the game. Having a stake on the winner or loser of a match brings the spectator closer to the game.
We can see from football betting sites all around the world that there’s a huge amount of variety in betting markets: from match outcome to over/under goals, number of corners and whether both teams score. This helps players use the analysis of how the teams perform and any benefits they may gain through their betting sites to select other outcomes beyond simply who will win. American football, similarly, includes a multitude of options, such as who will win the coin toss at the start, so existing betting fans don’t need to adjust their hobby too far to get involved with this new sport.
Both sports have an active and thriving online community. This includes players, pundits, commentators, spectators, and the peanut gallery. Part of the enjoyment of sport is the community aspect that develops around a team. For the most part, this results in genial engagements, banter, and fierce defense of teams.
Finding a like-minded community for any sport is easy with social media and the variety of ways in which people can communicate online. Forums, Facebook groups, and Twitter lists help you find people who can not only provide their own analysis, but who could help soccer fans properly get into the game.
One of the major obstacles to getting soccer fans into American football will be the gameplay they need to understand. Soccer is ostensibly simple, while NFL rules are harder to grasp. But once this minor hurdle has been overcome, soccer fans will no doubt experience the benefits of American football in the same way that generations of American fans have been able to.
Soccer and American football share many similarities. As culture continues to be shared around the world, we could see a rise in NFL fans from across the globe. Pointing out the similarities with popular sports such as soccer could result in gaining more fans.