How Tottenham Hotspur are using their NFL partnership to revolutionise the club

Imagery for the NFL games at Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium

As Europe’s top clubs jostle for the attention of Asian audiences, Tottenham Hotspur is using its partnership with the behemoth marketing machine that is the NFL to redefine the in-stadium experience and inflate its fan base on the other side of the Atlantic.

The state of the art £750m stadium is due to open next August and will double as a venue for NFL games. From its own micro-brewery and bakery to the stadium's specially-designed acoustics, the design for the 61,000-capacity venue has the potential to set a precedent for a new era of sports stadia in the UK and Europe.

The more premium areas such as the H Club will feature private dining while the Tunnel Club offers 100 people the chance to get close to the players with the one way mirror looking into the tunnel.

“The reasons why Tottenham have invested in this approach are clear,” says Shelley Pisarra, global head of research and insights, Wasserman. “The club has taken their inspiration from American sports, where arenas are built to support and entertain fans away from the field of play, as well as on it.

“The newly proposed stadium appeals to both the football purist, who will leave their favourite pubs to take-up their seats minutes before kick-off, and new fans who will look to the new stadium as a destination, not only to watch their team, but to socialise with other fans hours before and after the game.”

Increasing White Hart Lane’s current capacity of 36,000 to 61,000 will also take the club’s commercial clout up a level when it comes to competing with their Premier League rivals.

“We are competing with clubs that have the bigger capacities and therefore are driving the bigger revenues every day,” said Tottenham’s executive director, Donna-Maria Cullen.

This is where Tottenham differ from their rivals; the London club now has close ties with the NFL after striking a deal to host two games every year for the next 10-years. And the stadium has been designed with this in mind, from a dedicated surface beneath the pitch to special changing rooms.

The benefits the partnership poses for the club are vast and it’s this relationship which could give the club an edge over its rivals. The NFL is by far the most financially dominant sport on the planet, generating around $13bn annually and leading the way with innovative approach to growing the sport globally with live stream partnerships with the likes of Twitter and one of China’s top social media platform, Sina Weibo.

Pisarra says that “many European stadiums take the lead from their counterparts in the USA” and references a fan experience study by Wasserman which highlights what today’s sports fans have come to expect.

Surveying 8,500 sports fans from across 141 teams, 130 venues and 20 sports in the US, Pisarra says that 56% of fans said they want stadiums to provide them with a full day out.

Beyond just the stadium influences there is much which Tottenham can learn from the NFL's wider commercial strategies too. Premier League bosses were influenced by the American sport’s title marketing approach when they came up with their own clean brand strategy after they decided not to pursue another title sponsorship after Barclays’ tenure ended last year.

NFL players have been facing off against one another on these shores for the last 10-years and the sport’s bosses recently expand the number of games from three to four per season - half of one team's home fixtures- off the back of constant sell-out fixtures. It’s this kind of international growth which Tottenham will look to mine to further its own commercial ambitions.

“Tottenham can learn a lot from the NFL in terms of video strategies and entertainment and can replicate this unique environment with its new stadium,” says Misha Sher, head of sport and entertainment at MediaCom. “There’s a brand-building component to it for Tottenham in being able to leverage the power and might of the NFL and everything they’ve got access to in the American market, as the most developed sports property in America.”

Additionally, NBC will help with this expansion too given its coverage of both the Premier League and NFL, meaning the club’s new stadium will be on display to both soccer and American football fans alike.

This will build on the club’s work with the broadcaster too. Following NBC Sports’ acquisition of the Premier League broadcast rights in 2013 it worked with Tottenham to create a series of comical ads featuring comedian Jason Sudeikis, which have since garnered over 10 million views. The films were shot at the club’s new training facility with some of its players. The success of the series led the broadcaster to commit to a new six-year deal, taking it through to the 2012/22 season.

While the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Man United are targeting the US, Tottenham has a colossus in the NFL helping them grow in the region. By becoming an extension of one most recognisable US brands, the club are placing themselves in the right position to capture a larger share of what is the biggest consumer market in the world.

Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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