In a recent interview, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that he likes the idea of putting a NFL franchise in London, England and would push for it to be done. While he stressed that the team that would move wouldn’t be the Patriots, he said he would like his team to play in London whenever possible if given the opportunity.
From Kraft’s viewpoint, this is a marketing plan for the future. Despite annual games being played in the United Kingdom, American football is still looked at by most Britons as a lesser version of rugby. By supporting a London based NFL team and having the Patriots visit that team regularly, Kraft hopes to extend the team’s brand across the Atlantic.
The annual London game has been a controversial issue ever since it was first announced to be taking place. One reason is because one team loses a home game by playing overseas. The other reason is because of time change. The six hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean sends the teams to a country five hours ahead making it tougher to adjust for the game and gives the team less time than normal to prepare for that game and the following game.
With the current annual game at Wembley Stadium, the teams that make the trip have their bye scheduled the following week to help them adjust back to American time zones before the next game. If there is a league team based in London the league will be unable to give teams that luxury. So if the Patriots play that team each season their bye will not come immediately following that game each season.
From a marketing standpoint Kraft is correct. The success of Boston’s professional sports teams has helped their brand grow throughout America over the past decade. If there is a team in London, the Patriots could use that to their advantage from a marketing point of view. But playing a game in London each season means the team would suffer on the field. And for everyone else, that’s what matters most.