The Jacksonville Jaguars are very much the team that come to mind when asked about links between the NFL and the London games. They have become a staple of the British NFL scene having played a regular season game in London for nine of the last 10 seasons. Their consistent presence has worked wonders in cementing themselves as firm favourities amongst the UK audience. In fact, this weekend’s game against the Denver Broncos is their eighth in 10 years at Wembley Stadium, with the only exception being last season’s nail-biter against the Miami Dolphins.
Within the UK nowadays it is widely recognised that the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are owned by Shahid Khan - the same man who owns Premier League side Fulham, are the closest thing to a UK-based NFL franchise for us Brits can lay claim to. Khan himself has acknowledged the importance of the Jaguars being ‘present’ in the UK, describing Jacksonville as “London’s team” and London itself as their “home away from home”.
Khan also told the Press Association: "We have UK-based commercial partners. We have a full-time, fully-committed staff in London that works hard to make the Jaguars part of the overall sports landscape in the UK. We're London's team, but not just because we say we are. It's because of the commitment by a lot of people, including our fans in the UK and throughout Europe, to make it so.”
However, it’s not just their commitment to playing games over here that wins them plaudits. The Jaguars have made a substantial effort to integrate themselves into the foundations of the British American football scene, with grassroots initiatives now being run up and down the country. One of their most successful American football outreach programmes is JagTag.
JagTag is essentially a simplified version of American football that works in a similar manner to touch rugby, allowing for children to experience the game while learning the rules and techniques along the way. As of 2021 there were over 87,000 children taking part in the programme up and down the UK and one can only imagine that figure has grown in the 12 months since.
Speaking in 2019, Jaguars London-based vice-president of international development, Hussian Napi, noted that: “These kinds of commitments, that’s long term, having elementary school kids playing the game leads to the next generation of fans.”
Not only are the Jags offering new opportunities for the children, but they are also offering new opportunities to UK-based companies and individuals. A prime example is the American football training group known as XL Performance, who partnered with the Jaguars in 2021 to help deliver the JagTag initiative whilst supplying free and elite-level coaching to players involved in British American football between the ages of nine and 17. XL Performance was founded in 2019 by Kojo Oteng, a former American football player with experience of playing in the US.
As if all of that wasn’t enough positive publicity, there are 600 lucky children every year who get to go and watch an NFL London game for free. As an added incentive for older JagTag players, the franchise will send one boy and girl to university, covering their tuition costs throughout. It’s these extra details and additional efforts that make the Jacksonville Jaguars a more appealing team to many UK fans getting involved in the sport for the first time.
If you want to build a positive name for your brand abroad, then assessing what the Jaguars have done in the UK is certainly a strong template to start with. For many, Sunday’s game will be something they’ve done before. But for others it will be their first experience of the NFL. Maybe they won’t enjoy it and never return, but the one thing for sure is that the Jacksonville Jaguars are here to stay.
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