Every season the showpiece Super Bowl game is broadcast around the whole globe, yet compared to many other sports, viewing figures outside North America remain relatively low. The fact remains that elsewhere, gridiron still has a long way to go, towards its aim of becoming more appealing to foreign audiences.

Yet hope springs eternal when data gathering sites produce statistics for the NFL, showing that slowly but surely, the number of American football fans is actually growing around the world. We already know that NFL boasts a strong and healthy following in Europe, which boasts its own American football competitions and leagues. But what about elsewhere?

Considering how massively popular soccer has become throughout Asia, surely there’s a potential goldmine of marketing possibilities there, right? Well, according to the latest numbers via the start.io audience statistics website, there are just under 900,000 NFL fans in Thailand based upon recent calculations. This is in a country on the other side of the world, with a current population touching 70 million people.

The data shows that around 66% of the Thai NFL following is within the 18-24 age group, with around 25% aged between 25-34 years. This younger generation is arguably the primary target for any sporting organization, especially when it comes to marketing their product and focusing on a receptive audience. But akin to any great effort, more work is needed.

The need to generate local interest

Of course, interest in any sport will boom in a country if their own compatriots feature with any regularity. Back in 2014, Spanish soccer caught the imagination of Thai fans, when their brightest of talents Teerasil Dangda joined topflight side Almeria, although the experience ultimately proved somewhat disappointing. He only made 10 appearances and scored just one goal, before returning to Muangthong United.

For the remainder of his career, Dangda has never played soccer outside of Asia. Now 34 he is unlikely to have another opportunity, although he still remains a national team icon for Thailand, having scored 53 goals in 115 appearances. Nevertheless, his brief spell with Almeria did boost the popularity of Spanish soccer in Thailand, given one of their most cherished players had been there.

In the American football arena, when searching through the Pro Football Reference database for players born in Thailand, there’s just one result in the entire history of the NFL. This was Tony Brown, a defensive back born in the capital of Bangkok to American parents, who attended Kennedy High school in Granada Hills, California, then made his college breakthrough at Fresno State. 

Although undrafted, Brown spent two seasons with the Houston Oilers in 1992 and 1993, then two more at the Seattle Seahawks in 1994 and 1995. Over the course of his rather brief NFL career, brown made 57 NFL appearances, although he only started on 6 occasions. By comparison, his former high school teammate Mark McMillian enjoyed a much more successful career, making 127 appearances and 81 starts with five different NFL franchises.

NFL must promote itself better in Asia

One thing the NBA has done in recent years is push their marketing well in Asia, making North American basketball grow tremendously throughout the region. This has inevitably been helped by numerous Asian players being successful with NBA teams, giving people in the region added incentives to follow the competition and the teams they represent.

On the whole, American major league sports enjoy a healthy following across Asia, particularly in the Southeast Asia region. Likewise, the search for top sports betting sites known in Thailand as พนันกีฬาออนไลน์ has enjoyed greater demand, as punters look to find the best sportsbooks available backed by expert reviews, along with access to great offers and promotions.

Many online sportsbook sites provide live streams of major league sports, including the NFL, which is particularly handy when live betting. But those governing the North American sports could be doing more to promote themselves, from acknowledging their Asian fans more frequently, to sending teams on official visits to meet and greet fans.

Perhaps the NFL could even host exhibition games featuring popular teams, which undoubtedly get the locals clamoring to fill the primary sports venue in Bangkok. During the summer of 2022, the English Premier League sent soccer giants Manchester United and Liverpool, which attracted a massive capacity crowd at the Rajamangala National Stadium. If the NFL offered a similar experience, they would reap the benefits of growing fandom.