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Super Bowl Asia

Super Bowl: Ads have more of a cut-through in Asia than the sport

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By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

February 5, 2016 | 3 min read

The NFL has started to court global appeal with high profile games kicking off in London and, according to the recent extension to the NFL International resolution, the possibility of further European cities.

In Asia, however, it’s the British-understood football (or 'soccer' in the US) that’s taken off. Teams like Manchester United and Manchester City are actively courting their Chinese and Southeast Asian fan base and, as a result, finding themselves sponsored by big Asian brands.

In the wake of the Super Bowl 50, which is finding wider appeal than on its home turf, in the shape of European fans, could Asia be the NFL’s next frontier? Is this an issue for international brands, hoping that it's Super Bowl activation will resonate among the widest possible audience?

Mike Jackson, MD of MEC Access in APAC, believes not but that, if the brand activation is good enough, the ads will have an impact outside the core fan base.

“The Asian market will be more interested in the ads in the half-time break than the game itself,” he says.

The problem, Jackson believes, is that unlike in other sports, there are no Asian superstars in the league bridging the relevance for the market.

“Broadly speaking American sport doesn't resonate in Asia, English Premier League cuts through across markets but it's the only international sport that does at scale apart from global sporting events, such as Olympics and World Cup. There are pockets of local market interest for US sport but certainly not widely followed,” he says, adding that it wouldn’t change “unless an Asian superstar performs NFL heroics.”

An NFL spokesman confirmed to The Drum that while the International Resolution, which commits the league to international matches until 2025, isn’t country-specific, Mark Waller, NFL executive vice president of International, has made public that Asia wouldn’t be a focus for the NFL.

This means international brands will struggle to grow the reach of their Super Bowl activation outside the US and Europe. Or, in Jackson’s words, it won’t work: “unless the international strategy of NFL changes and they get stronger reach, interest and relevance in Asia.”

To find out why celebrity Super Bowl ads don't always pay off, or check out this year's crop of ads check out our dedicated Super Bowl hub.

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