Patrick Mahomes circled the Frankfurt game on his calendar when the NFL schedule was announced.
“It’s really cool just to be on this stage, the world stage, in Germany,” the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback said Friday. “I’m excited to be able to play out here.”
The Chiefs are excited, too, because the game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Deutsche Bank Park is a big step for an organization with global ambitions to become the “world’s team.”
The blueprint is simple enough. They have won two of the past four Super Bowls, they have dynamic stars in reigning MVP Mahomes and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, and the NFL has prioritized international growth. Taylor Swift just adds to their good timing.
“We feel like this is our era,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said. “Based on the timing, the success and the stars, it’s a responsibility to take advantage of this. If we don’t aggressively take advantage of this, that’s a failure.”
The Chiefs have commercial rights in Germany under the league’s global markets program, meaning they can sign corporate sponsorship deals, hold events to attract fans and sell merchandise as they do in their home markets. That country list includes Austria and Switzerland, as well as Mexico.
The NFL added a 17th game to the schedule to facilitate playing more games abroad, and it is reviewing Spain and Brazil as future hosts, one of them possibly for the 2024 season.
“It can be looked at as maybe arrogant. I like to look at it as ambitious, but we want to be the world’s team,” Donovan said. “We think the opportunity exists today for us to set a foothold that we are the world’s team, that people look at the Chiefs as an international representation of the NFL.”
They say they have some numbers to back it up, too. The NFL told the Chiefs that they are No. 2 in “revenue generated from the international markets,” Donovan said. He declined to say which team is first, and the NFL didn’t comment.
The Chiefs have played two other regular-season international games, winning in Mexico City in 2019 and in London four years earlier.
This one is different, though. The global markets program only took effect in January 2022, the Chiefs have another Lombardi Trophy, and Mahomes is increasingly the face of the league following the retirement of Tom Brady.
“From our standpoint, we’re going to be aggressive in looking at additional markets, and we’re going to be aggressive in looking at additional games,” Donovan said. “We think games are the best way to have that foothold activation.”
With the league studying Spain and Brazil, those two countries are atop Kansas City’s list of potential next markets, Donovan said.
The Chiefs are “talking to the league” about ways to play more international games. As is, they are a big draw around the U.S., so other teams don’t want to give up the revenue that comes with a visit from Chiefs Kingdom. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example, rejected the Chiefs as the “away” team for their game in Munich last season, Donovan said.
Kansas City is the designated “home” team in Frankfurt, as will be the New England Patriots next week against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chiefs have spent about $1 million in preparation and fan events for Frankfurt — that includes docking a Chiefs-themed yacht in the Main River. Over the past nearly three years, the team has spent about $3 million on its international efforts, with the majority invested in Germany, Donovan said.
“It’s going to pay off over time,” he said.
The late Lamar Hunt was an early proponent of going international. The Chiefs have played preseason games in Japan, Mexico and Germany.
A memorable preseason game took place in August 1990 when the Chiefs played the Los Angeles Rams at Olympic Stadium in West Berlin after the Berlin Wall fell and just before reunification. Media reports said there were 55,000 fans.
Growing an international fan base these days “is much easier to do now because of social media, because of the digital delivery of games,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said this week.
As for becoming the world’s team, Donovan acknowledges it won’t be easy.
“It’s a big, audacious goal,” he said.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition