Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

With NFL ratings ailing in the U.S., the league’s decision to tap IMG as its exclusive licensing representative for select markets in Europe and Asia adds up.

The multiyear deal coincides with the NFL’s ongoing strategy to expand its brand presence internationally through new licensed consumer products aimed at its overseas fans. Under the stewardship of commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL has been reaching out to a wider audience by holding regular season games outside of the U.S. in recent seasons. The league’s main event — the Super Bowl — is watched in more than 180 countries and in nearly 25 languages. This year’s showdown between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons attracted 111.3 million viewers — a slight decline compared to the 2016 Super Bowl.

Through the alliance with IMG, the aim is to target a range of distribution channels and price points, for men’s, women’s and children’s fan apparel, as well as accessories, home decor, fast-fashion collaborations, food and beverages.

Akash Jain, vice president of international commercial development for the NFL, said, “We look forward to offering fans an expanded consumer products portfolio, further enhancing our relationship with our growing fan base.”

Bruno Maglione, president of IMG’s worldwide licensing division, said, “Football is America’s most distinctive and unique sport export. Its international appeal is growing rapidly both as a sporting competition as well as at a more visceral level that transcends sport. The fans are already there, and now is the time to expand the breadth and accessibility of the NFL’s consumer product offering. We are proud to be entrusted with that mission.”

While some chalked up last season’s viewership decline to the presidential election and the absence of key players during part of the season, like the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, the post-election fan numbers didn’t bounce back entirely. During the campaign, ratings were reportedly down 12 percent over the previous year, and after election day — and including the playoffs — they were down 5 percent.

IMG already has American football licensing work through the Football Greats Alliance, or FGA, an agency launched last year with the Pro Football Retired Players Association and with support from the NFL to manage the collective marketing and licensing rights of more than 22,000 retired NFL players.

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