|Mark Waller - Executive Vice President International, NFL|
|Profile of the week|
Sunday, 28 September 2014 22:51
Mark Waller is the Executive Vice President, International of the National Football League (NFL).
A British national, Mark has had an international business career that spans more than 25 years with global companies. He joined the NFL on 1 February 2006 and became Chief Marketing Officer August 2009. In that role he oversaw all the League’s marketing, as well as the NFL’s international activities. He was responsible for developing the NFL’s long-term fan development and brand strategy, and served on the league’s Business Ventures senior management team.
The NFL is playing in London for an unprecedented three times this year. The first game took place this weekend with Miami Dolphins beating Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium.
By Ismail Uddin
Mark, you were recently promoted to Executive Vice-president, International from Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Why did you decide to make the move?
When I joined the League eight or nine years ago, I joined to run the original international strategy that started playing games in the UK. We felt quite strongly, that we reached a point with this strategy where we had the opportunity to take it to the next level and at the same time look at developing strong growth platforms in other markets, so it was a good skill set fit.
Secondly, we do a piece of work every off season and we look at the League priorities, what we're focused on and do and have the executive team behind that that gets those priorities the right way. Essentially I was doing the CMO role and running International. We believe now that the international strategy and business opportunity is big enough and important enough that it should have a dedicated senior executive resource put against it, so it was a logical fit for me to do that role and at the same time we decided to put our marketing group and our events group together. They had run separately so we integrated those and that created the opportunity for a new CMO who we announced Monday last week.
NFL has already announced Dawn Hudson as your replacement. What will she bring to the team?
Dawn is great. She will add so much to the League in so many different ways. She's run huge businesses as CEO. That's a skill set that will be really important as you bring marketing and events together, that's sort of chief executive experience will be critically important.
She brings a breadth of experience from her agency, consumer packaged goods background and more recently consulting. Her functional skills are very diverse and she will bring a senior executive female perspective to our executive team and that again is something that will add real value. I'm really excited for her but more importantly, I'm excited for our team.
Wembley is set to host three Regular Season games for the first time in NFL history. What makes these games so attractive?
The reality is, we have gone from seven to eight years ago, where we were 'the circus coming to town' and people wanted to go because it was something new and different but now we have built ourselves into the sporting culture and into the sporting calendar in a meaningful way. These are mainstream sports events and the size and scale of the audience we are generating is really quite extraordinary.
The three games at Wembley will sell a quarter of a million tickets, about 33,000 people will buy season tickets to all three games and the average price is about £100 a ticket. If you were to take those numbers and compare them to the numbers in the US, were essentially selling half a season of home games in the UK, that's quite an extraordinary accomplishment and it shows you the depth of the fan base.
The last point I'd make is that we do a lot of work on who is in the stadium, about 88% of the fans who are in the stadium are British. The vast majority come from within three hours of the centre of London, so it's a huge UK domestic audience. It's about 6% who are from the rest of Europe, a lot from Germany, Denmark, Scandinavia and about 6% from America predominantly ex-patriots in the city of London but some travel over as well so it's just a huge UK fan base.
NFL on Regent Street returned this weekend. What makes this event successful in your eyes?
I guess a foreign sport shutting down one of the main iconic streets of London to celebrate the unique relationship between the sport and the country is pretty special. I think it is truly groundbreaking and I think the way that gets executed is a real tribute to Regent Street.
The ability to take all that real estate and those retailers and have them celebrate the weekend is truly extraordinary. Also for us it's a great opportunity to make what we do accessible to people. You want people to touch and feel the game and to understand it's more than the game, it's got a whole way of life to it. It has a culture that comes with it.
The Oakland Raiders game against Atlanta Falcons in a month's time will be a historic Sunday morning kickoff in the United States and early afternoon kickoff in Europe. What was the initial mind-set behind this idea?
There was two thoughts. The first thought was we need to play a game at the time a game is most relevant meaningful and accessible in the UK. Until now we have always played our games in conjunction with US TV schedule which essentially means we've had to kick off at 5 or 6 in the evening pending on the time difference and now that we have that scale of UK fan base they deserve to have a game at a time that works for them. Obviously 1.30 in the afternoon is a great time for a fan. That was the first thought.
The second thought was in creating that window we have been able to create a national TV window in the States that will allow all of our US fans to be able to see the game in the UK. That has not been the case up until now. If you know our US TV business, the 1pm on a Sunday is not a national TV window, those are regional games, so this will actually be the first time that a UK game will air nationally to the entire US on FOX. It's a great way for us to showcase to our American fans the passion of the UK fan which they will be fascinated by.
You have recently announced an expanded broadcast partnership with Sky Sports in the UK and Channel 4 has also increased their coverage of the sport this year. Are these companies the way forward for you in regards to broadcasting the game over here?
We have had a long historical relationship with both those two companies. Sky, to all intents and purposes, have been home of the NFL in recent years and they have done a fantastic job for us and with us. We are very proud of the relationship we have and I believe that the new agreement shows us that they are very happy with the relationship as well.
Channel 4 was where it all started for NFL over here in the 80s. That was the home of American Football when it first broke into the UK. Channel 4 is a unique opportunity as they have a very good demographic, very clear positioning, our sport fits well with the brand they are and they will do a fantastic job for us in broadening the reach of the sport as we aim to give people more.