As the Houston Texans get ready to head across the pond for the first time this weekend, so too are their fans.
Those rabid Texan fans will be the focus of the Houston organization as they land in the United Kingdom this week as the Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars November 2 at Wembley Stadium in London.
“We haven’t looked at it as an opportunity to grow our fanbase,” said Jennifer Davenport, Texans senior vice president of marketing and community development. “Our focus is on making sure our fans are having a great experience.”
Davenport said the team sold through its allotment of London game tickets quickly and expects there to be 3,000 Texan fans from Houston on the ground.
That’s not to say there won’t be an effort by the Texans to grow a UK fanbase, as the organization is working with the NFL UK and will be heading to a local elementary school for the Play 60 campaign and other appearances. Likewise, just consistent branding should help encourage English fans to jump on the bandwagon.
“We will, by the fact of simply being there, build the brand to the local fanbase,” Davenport said. “We are a unique brand, especially to the international audience, rooted in state pride and traditions. The nature of being there, we’ll appeal to some and we’ll capitalize on that.”
The focus on their fans, however, is largely because it’s the Texans’ first trip to London. Houston was one of that last two NFL teams to make its way over the Atlantic – the Carolina Panthers also ventured to England for the first time this season. However, it is not the team’s first international game as the Texans have taken the field in Mexico City.
Because the distance to London is much more dramatic than Mexico City, Davenport said the proximity does play into the strategy on the ground. She said the team took a four-pillar approach to the game in London.
The first objective was to make sure fans at home felt as though they were there, so an in-depth plan was set to send back London-centric content back to Houston.
The second pillar was ensuring VIPs, sponsors, corporate partners, and season ticket holders one the ground would be comfortable and for the organization to use the opportunity to further build those relationships.
The third was to take care of the traveling fanbase, those 2-3,000 fans who purchased tickets and are traveling the nearly 5,000 miles to England. Davenport said the Texans always have a sizable traveling fanbase, but the commitment to the UK game was still a pleasant occurrence.
For those fans, the Texans have a “whole itinerary of weekend activities,” according to Davenport. She said the team has worked with NFL UK and is trying to benefit from being one of the last two teams to play in London by using best practices.
Those conversations led to a Texans-branded pub that will run Thursday through Sunday with plenty of team imagery, like giant photos of J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, and DeAndre Hopkins. Likewise, a Texans-branded doubled-decker bus will be driving around London, including a tour of landmarks with Texans mascots and former Texans wide receiver Kevin Walter.
“It’ll probably interest locals, but we’re creating a welcoming environment for our fans,” Davenport said.
The fourth of the four pillars for the Texans in London is building a relationship with the NFL UK office and supporting what they can while on the ground and any “displaced” fans.
“A lot of what we try to do is extend the calendar beyond the game week,” Hussain Naqi, the Jaguars’ London-based senior vice president of international development, told FOS in April. “We don’t want a circus to come to town and then drop off and no one tries to have a year-round conversation.”
The Texans are playing their London game with home closer in mind than their opponents, but that’s a calculated move and there’s no saying what could be in store for future games.
“We’re being pragmatic about it,” Davenport said. “We’re a younger franchise and we see the appeal outside of Houston – the Mexico game had a lot more fan development efforts – and we see this as a relationship-building experience, but it’s just being wise with resources.”
Back in Houston, the team partnered with Bud Light to help bring the action a little closer, with an activation called “Kegs & Egg.” The contest closed last week, but was meant to act as a reminder for fans to wake up early – kickoff at 1:30 p.m. in London is 8:30 a.m. in Houston – and get out of their normal game-day routine.
The winner of the party, however, gets a keg of Bud Light and a full English breakfast delivered for a house party during the game.
“We wanted a way to get the fans involved and had the idea of bringing London to them,” Davenport said. “It was also a cool way to remind them the week would be a bit different.”