Germany has a new home team, and it just happens to be the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On Wednesday, the NFL announced that 18 teams have been granted access to new International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA), with a total of 26 IHMAs granted overall. The Buccaneers' IHMA is Germany, which has a strong Tampa Bay fanbase and a longstanding interest in the National Football League. Beginning in January and extending for at least five years, the Buccaneers will have opportunities for marketing, fan engagement and commercialization in Germany that will allow them to build their local brands and help the NFL expand internationally.
"We are thrilled to embrace Germany as our international home market and look forward to strengthening our presence in a part of the world that is already home to many Buccaneers fans," said Buccaneers Owner/Co-Chairman Joel Glazer. "We will move quickly to engage with our German fans and are excited about the many opportunities to help grow our game and expand our existing relationships throughout Germany over the coming years."
Glazer, who is Chairman of the NFL's International Committee, expects American football to continue to grow in popularity around the globe and believes the new International Home Marketing Areas will help new and existing fans in every market connect with the game. The International Committee ratified the IHMA plan on Wednesday, granting teams access to markets in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, German, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom.
"Today's announcement is a significant milestone in our efforts to broaden the NFL's global reach by building long-term relationships with these international markets that will play a large role in the continued growth and expansion of our sport for years to come," said Glazer. "Much of our league success is rooted in the strong connection that our individual teams have built with their fans, and this initiative creates many more avenues for engaging and energizing our international fanbase."
The NFL's efforts to build international relationships will also include a new initiative to have each of the league's 32 teams play at least one international game within the next eight years. The league will also make an effort to have those teams play in their IHMAs when at all possible, meaning the Buccaneers may soon be scheduled for a regular-season contest in Germany.
Quarterback Tom Brady, who has enjoyed playing games in London and Mexico City during his career, is thrilled by the idea of visiting Germany and spreading his love of the game to another growing fanbase.
"I think we all, here in the U.S., have such love for the sport, and for us as players it's been such a big part of our lives," he said. "For us to be able to go to other countries and share that is a great experience. To have the opportunity to go there and play, to show everyone why we love it so much is a great opportunity for us all, because I really believe that people, once they're engaged with it, are going to find it to be such an incredible sport for them to watch."
Head Coach Bruce Arians is one of the few members of the current Buccaneers organization who has previously experienced an American football game in Germany. As an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1990, Arians took part in an "American Bowl" preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams in West Berlin. Since then, Arians has seen the reach that American football has in Germany even when playing in other parts of Europe.
"Every time I've been to Europe I've met so many German fans," said Arians. "It's just an amazing group of fans that get together online, and they know how to party. I think American football is the greatest sport in the world and [it's great] for us to be able to put it on for every place and continue to grow the game."