How the NFL Generates Revenue

The National Football League is the premier organization for American football. While this suggests a sport that is exclusive to fans in the US, it has a more comprehensive, global following.

Millions of people watch NFL games from all over the world, right from the start of the regular season through to the very last kick of the Super Bowl. The governing body is the powerhouse behind the sport, but it’s more than just a league; this is a multi-million dollar business.

Bigger Business

Several associated industries enjoy significant revenue thanks to the NFL. In turn, those outlets also produce income for the organization. TV broadcasters bid for the rights to show live games and highlights packages throughout the season. Their reward is an audience of millions ready to buy subscriptions while advertisers pay premium rates for airtime.

Meanwhile, the NFL has earned significant sums through these broadcasters, and that is a steady source of revenue for the league.

Sports betting companies like DraftKings have also benefitted from the sport since legislation on gambling was relaxed in 2018. Those who list extensive NFL odds earn income through their global customer base. Many of those sportsbooks give back to the NFL through sponsorships and other commercial deals.

In short, this is a win/win situation for all parties involved, and it’s one of the most important revenue streams for the National Football League.

A National Level

There are two forms of income streams in American football. National revenue benefits the NFL, while local revenue enters the coffers of each team. TV advertising is a lucrative example of national revenue, and a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl can cost a company in the region of $7 million.

National revenue is also earned through merchandising, and this is another significant income stream for the League. Each of the 32 NFL franchises also earns local revenue through merchandise, but it’s a vital income provider for the League as a whole.

The NFL has a central online store, and it partners with other retailers and manufacturers via exclusive deals. In 2018, the organization signed a contract with Fanatics in association with Nike. This allowed Fanatics to become the exclusive producer of adult-sized merchandise that carried the famous Nike logo.

Fans trust all three brands, and that increases revenue for all parties at that online store. For the rights to secure that deal, Fanatics have added significantly to the revenue earned by the NFL. 

Merchandise comes in many forms, and Fanatics were in the spotlight once again. In 2021, it was announced that the brand had signed a contract with the NFL which gave them name, image and likeness rights, which allowed them to produce player trading cards.

It’s a huge agreement, both in terms of importance and its length. The deal with Fanatics and the NFL is for 20 years and, while it was originally set to begin from 2026, the contract was changed to 2021 onwards.

Along with clothing and trading cards, there are additional deals in place for many other types of merchandise. Key rings, mugs, glasses and even pet bowls form a small part of a multi-million part of the entire NFL landscape.

All sales from the online website benefit the League as a whole, while manufacturers enjoy a slice of the pie, after paying handsomely for the right to be associated with the NFL.

A Global Game

While American football is played at some levels in other countries, overseas professional leagues have never really taken off. Canada has its own successful competition, but attempts to develop pro tournaments in mainland Europe were eventually shut down.

It seems that fans just want to see those NFL franchises, and that’s why the organization has taken the league on the road. Official NFL matches have previously been played in Mexico, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and this is another lucrative source of revenue.

In England, the focal point for NFL abroad is the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. This is the biggest domestic stadium by capacity in the area, and it held NFL matches in October 2023. Tottenham Hotspur and the NFL signed a deal in 2017 that would see the ground host official League games through to 2017.

Once again, both sides benefit from this arrangement. Tottenham will gain revenue from ticket sales, broadcasting and merchandising, while the NFL will also gain in these areas. More importantly, the English football club pays a high price for the honor of hosting those matches.

NFL National Revenue figures show that the League earned almost $12 billion in 2022 alone. Those are eye-watering sums and it underlines just how successful the competition is. With global expansion, there are signs that the figures can only increase, and these multiple income streams show just how popular the sport is on a global scale.


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