American football tackles UK political establishment with Hanover appointment

NFL, the US league attempting to popularise American football in the UK, is working with corporate and public affairs agency Hanover Communications to "generate conversations in government and with key influencers".

American football: the UK's Wembley stadium has staged a number of NFL games
American football: the UK's Wembley stadium has staged a number of NFL games

Hanover, which has been working with the NFL since Super Bowl XLVII in February, has launched a specialist Sports Reputation Practice, led by Gavin Megaw, on the back of the contract win.

David Tossell, NFL director of public affairs for Europe, said that the "time is right" for the NFL to broaden its horizons as this year it will hold three regular league matches in the UK for the first time. The first NFL game to be played in the UK was at Wembley Stadium in 2007.

Bringing in a public affairs specialist will not dampen speculation that the NFL is working on awarding a franchise to a London-based team, which has been championed by its commissioner Roger Goodell.

However, Tossell said that the increased investment in the UK did not include plans for a London-based NFL franchise. "We are simply doing all we can to grow the sport and the fan base here," he said. "As the commissioner has said, there is no timeline for or strategy geared specifically towards having an NFL franchise in London."

The NFL's previous efforts to raise awareness have seen it work with agencies such as Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Brunswick, Freuds and Synergy. However, for the past few years it has been purely focused on driving sports coverage, via its specialist sports agency Mace Sports.

Tossell said: "Mace’s focus is quite narrow with the national print sports media [whereas] Hanover has a broader brief around getting us into other areas and different platforms.

"Hopefully Hanover can help us generate conversations around NFL in key areas of government, with people who are influencers and who understand what NFL could bring to this country.

"Our games have a significant economic impact and we want as many people as possible – in the media, politics or in other sports organisations – wanting the NFL to do more. Hanover is one of those agencies that can give us that reach."

Megaw said that the NFL was "one of if not the most admired sports competition globally" and that it would be "the flagship client" for the Sports Reputation Practice.

He added: "It is an integrated account but the main focus of the account is PR – to get coverage beyond the sports pages. We’re genuinely entering a very exciting time.

"This year will be the first time we have three proper NFL league matches in the UK and the middle game will be televised across the States, which is a great opportunity for London and for Wembley."

Megaw said that the account was UK-focused but that coverage would permeate through to Europe. "The UK is clearly where the NFL wants to focus its attention and investment at the moment," he added.

Hanover’s new Sports Reputation Practice will work on a daily basis with Tossell and the NFL’s UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood on a "significant multi-layered communications campaign" in 2014-15 to increase the profile and status of the NFL.

The campaign will be overseen by Chris Parsons, senior vice-president, international, at the NFL.

Parsons said: "Hanover has impressed us with its authoritative strategy and focus on tangible outputs.

"It is adding great value to our offering and we look forward to seeing some great results ahead of welcoming six teams to the UK for the International Series in September."

Charles Lewington, managing director of Hanover, said the agency had set out to establish itself as the "go-to sports reputation agency in Europe".

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