Experience Kissimmee, a DMO known for forging worldwide partnerships with elite sports brands, has just changed the goalposts for measuring impact. This week, the organization was officially named the official destination marketing organization sponsor of the NFL in the U.K.
As such, Experience Kissimmee will kick off its most ambitious activation to date during the three-game series of professional football games played in England this season:
- Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints (Oct. 2)
- New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers (Oct. 9)
- Denver Broncos vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Oct. 30)
The stage to promote the Central Florida region, dubbed the Vacation Home Capital of the World, is immense. More than 7 million viewers watched two sold-out games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Fabled Wembley Stadium will join Tottenham’s venue as sites for the 2022 slate.
Signage will be spread across the stadiums, directly reaching hundreds of thousands of attendees. Television and digital assets will reach remote audiences in this truly hybrid experience.
The chance to reach international and national audiences concurrently makes this a dream project for Experience Kissimmee and the Kissimmee Sports Commission. Previous activations at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, English Premier League, Major League Soccer and Invictus Games have placed Kissimmee ahead of the sports tourism destination marketing game for some time. But as impressive and successful as those projects were, the NFL in the U.K. partnership is another league, says John Poole, executive director of the Kissimmee Sports Commission.
“There is obviously a unique element that this hasn't been done by a singular destination before,” notes Poole. “In terms of standing out against our competitors from a marketing standpoint, I think this is going to be great for us.”
The timing for the marketing kickoff is excellent for Experience Kissimmee’s sake. Experience Kissimmee data shows the booking window for vacation homes is 220 to 290 days for U.K. travelers, and the peak travel period for the U.K. is July to August. October, when the games are played, is about 270 days from when the travel influx begins.
Here are some factors that play a big factor in the project:
International travel is beginning to gain momentum after the pandemic-created moratorium. October, when the cooler temperatures start to take hold, spurs greater interest in booking for warmer months the following year. And few can compete with the array of attractions in Kissimmee, home to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Orlando and many other family-friendly entertainment options. “The big challenge for us is educating, developing and helping people understand what the offerings are and consuming—specifically, the four pillars of the attractions, the fine dining, ecotourism, and the accommodations and vacation homes,” Poole explains of the promotional opportunities.
Flag football is gaining a foothold as a popular version of the game. Following the sport’s debut in the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama (not England), the International Federation of American Football awarded Lahti, Finland, the next edition of the Flag Football World Championships in 2024. Flag football is a growing college sport in this country, but the results of the World Games, in which Mexico beat the United States for the gold, demonstrates its global appeal. Indeed, Experience Kissimmee is extending this partnership to support the NFL UK Flag Football program, which is now active in more than 300 schools in 20 U.K. regions.
There’s room and time to grow this venture. The fact the NFL in the U.K. has expanded to three games per season is testament to the popularity of our country’s version of football, notes Poole, who is from England. “The appetite is definitely there,” says Poole. “I mean, they sell out each game.” The phenomenon is growing. The Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will expand the league’s reach this season with the first-ever regular season game in Germany. Experience Kissimmee signed a three-year sponsorship deal, expanding its pool to target directly based on the teams playing—the Jacksonville Jaguars are the only European mainstay. “We will have more opportunities to connect with other markets as NFL U.K. is able to rotate the teams,” says Poole.
Experience Kissimmee turned a potential negative into a positive. For all the amenities Central Florida has, one omission is a pro football team in a state sporting the Jaguars, Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins. Because the region isn’t anchored to one team, it became a very attractive option to the NFL in the U.K., which opted for the neutral site sponsor. So, rather than be associated with one particular team, Experience Kissimmee is a league-wide sponsor for this first-of-its-kind partnership.
Photo Courtesy of Experience Kissimmee