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The Chiefs: Big in Germany. (But Does It Matter?)

  • Chiefs president Mark Donovan lays out Kansas City’s international ambitions: in the red now, break-even in the next 18 months.
  • Donovan: ‘We now have the world’s demographic, the world’s population, if we can just get the content in front of them.’
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The two teams in the Super Bowl typically lose money, in part because of the costs of travel, bloated by giant entourages, often including all of a club’s employees. Money is made in future years by higher ticket and sponsorship prices driven by the success and exposure.

But that doesn’t mean clubs aren’t using Super Bowl week for business. The Chiefs, who have an ambitious international strategy, are hosting executives of three of their German partners in Las Vegas this week, according to Mark Donovan, Kansas City’s president, as the Midwestern club continues to be one of the most ambitious NFL franchises in mining overseas opportunities. (The three: Crave, a German pet food company; apparel maker Englebert Strauss; and an agency, Brands and Emotions.)

“We are always activating,” Donovan told a group of media earlier this week. “We are one of the most aggressive teams in growing internationally, because we see the value for a small market team to say, ‘There are no boundaries.’ We now have the world’s demographic, the world’s population, if we can just get the content in front of them.”

The Chiefs are putting millions of dollars toward their push into Germany, where the NFL allows the team to market under a program that assigns geographic commercial opportunities to clubs. But for the Chiefs, it is a long-term vision.

“I don’t think international is all upside,” Donovan said. “I think there’s a lot of investment; we’ve had to put a lot of money against it. … It is exponential upside.”

Asked whether the Chiefs were in the red or black overseas, Donovan said the team was right now losing money. “I project that we will be at break-even in the next 18 months. And that will be dramatically impacted by whether or not we play another game internationally. (The Chiefs played the Dolphins in Frankfurt this season.) Because what we saw from Germany is we were able to grow the business a bit just by putting forth effort and creating relationships. The game was pretty exponential for us in terms of growth through a partnership standpoint.”

The Panthers have been announced as the home team for a game in Munich next season, and Donovan has already made known that the Chiefs want to be the away team. But he is doubtful that will happen, as the Chiefs are a big road draw, and the Panthers won’t want to give that up.

“We’re in the top one or two of every social media [metric] you could have in terms of NFL-related entities in Germany,” Donovan said. “And that’s been a three-year effort to get there. We’ve had a lot of success on that front.”

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