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NFL tackles Mexico: face to face event with Comissioner Paul Tagliabue hosted by AmCham.

The National Football League (NFL) made history on October 2 when the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The teams themselves may not play a huge part in the NFL playoffs this year, but the game took on enormous significance because it was the first regular-season NFL game played outside of the United States.

The momentous game drew 103,467 rabid fans, the largest regular-season crowd ever, but the NFL will not say when a franchise in Mexico may be feasible. However, during an AMERICAN CHAMBER/MEXICO Face to Face event held the day after the game, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stated that he would like to see future regular-season games played in Mexico to legitimize the game in a soccer-dominant country.

The event, "Monday Morning Quarterbacks: The Business of the Game," was moderated by president and CEO of Smith Search and AMCHAM vice president, John Smith, and was attended by more than 100 people. Also present was Anthony Munoz, the first player of Mexican origin to enter the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1998.

Although Commissioner Tagliabue could not confirm the timeline of a franchise in Mexico, he said it would surely be in his lifetime. Of course, he joked that he expects to live for quite some time. Mean while, the league aims to develop more NFL-caliber players in Mexico, which will then attract additional fans in the United States. One way he said the NFL is achieving its goal is to "work with amateur authorities in Mexico to encourage the game at the youth level."

NFL's International Public Relations Director Pete Abitante added that the goal of October's Mexico game was twofold, to serve the growing number of fans in Mexico and the Latino fan base in the United States. "We think the game will impact business in Mexico moving forward. The game also gave us a chance to recognize our Hispanic players, coaches and administrators. Further, it provided a heightened awareness of the NFL among the Hispanic community in the United States," said Abitante.


In the meantime, there are marketing instruments the NFL can use to promote the game. One local football coach believes that Mexico has enough American football fans to support a future franchise, but the league needs to promote its logo more widely and hold more regular-season games to keep interest growing south of the border.

"I believe the NFL is the best-run professional sports franchise inside the United States," said Eric Fisher, head football coach at the American School Foundation in Mexico City. "But they really miss the target outside of the U.S., especially since a sizable percentage of the population in Mexico is not interested in soccer and are big American football fans."

But before planning future regular-season games in Mexico, the NFL will measure the impact of its Azteca Stadium game and "determine a palpable cause and effect between what went into putting on the game and the business results," said Abitante.

While calibrating the business value of future games, the NFL says it will continue to use television, global telecommunications and youth programs to keep interest in American football high.

Abitante cautions, however, that the NFL's business model in the United States will not necessarily apply in Mexico and other markets. The NFL will look closely at Mexico's culture before launching a Spanish-language marketing campaign suitable to the country's fans, he told BUSINESS MEXICO. Further, the Internet, which plays an enormous role in promoting the NFL stateside, is not as accessible a medium in Mexico. The Internet will not be one of NFL's central promotional tools here unless the league sees more usage nationally.

In the near-term, American football fans in Mexico City may expect to see additional NFL games played on Mexican soil, but they will have to live as long as Commissioner Tagliabue before wearing a franchise jersey.
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Title Annotation:AMCHAM AT WORK
Author:Gleason, Megan MacKenzie
Publication:Business Mexico
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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