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