CLIENT OF THE WEEK: Soccer fan calls the NFL shots - Darren Venn’s sports nous should help Brits warm to gridiron, John Tylee writes

To understand why Darren Venn has been hired to put US gridiron football firmly on Britain’s sporting map, you only have to look at what happened when the London Monarchs launched its season on Sunday, 13 April.

To understand why Darren Venn has been hired to put US gridiron

football firmly on Britain’s sporting map, you only have to look at what

happened when the London Monarchs launched its season on Sunday, 13

April.



Some 11,500 people watched the game at Stamford Bridge, a respectable

enough attendance for a supposed niche sport. How many more might have

come, Venn wonders, if the game had not clashed with a TV sporting feast

- FA Cup soccer, the Argentinian Grand Prix and Tiger Woods’ performance

in the US Masters.



With a little foresight and understanding of the UK scene, such a

scheduling cock-up need never have occurred. And it’s no accident that

NFL International, the European arm of American football’s governing

body, has plucked Venn, 31, from a senior marketing job at the Football

Association, to ensure it doesn’t happen again.



Failure is anathema to the Americans when either playing their sports or

promoting them and the NFL is harnessing Venn’s soccer experience to

build gridiron’s supporter base.



As NFL International’s commercial director, one of his most significant

acts has been to appoint McCann-Erickson - his agency partner at the FA

- to raise the game’s UK profile (Campaign, last week).



The London Monarchs’ budget is being pooled with the NFL International

corporate spend to provide a pounds 1.2 million war chest, most of which

will go into above-the-line advertising.



Targeted at a mainly upmarket audience, the campaign’s aim is to destroy

the perception that the game is complex - there are only eight major

rules, Venn says - that the action is stop-go and that the pro game in

Britain is played by has-beens from the US augmented by raw local

talent.



’The NFL wants to build its brand in a very professional way,’ Venn

says.



’The advertising isn’t about selling tickets or pushing videos in club

shops. Gridiron football will always be a niche sport in the UK - but it

can still be a very successful one.’



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