Meet the NFL Playmakers
As a proud sponsor of the NFL International Series, we’ve got sideline seats as all the action unfolds in London each year. For the past eight seasons, we’ve had the pleasure of flying the football teams from America to England on specially chartered flights. This year, six teams are crossing the pond to challenge each other in front of thousands of British and European fans. The first game takes place on 2 October at Wembley Stadium.
Loads of planning goes into these flights, from the bespoke menus we serve hungry players to the thousands of pounds of cargo we transport to bring the game day experience abroad. Our airport teams spend months getting to know the likes and dislikes of each franchise so that their travel experience is as seamless and personalised as possible. Our goal is to make sure they arrive in the UK well-rested and ready to compete at an all-star level.
But it’s not just the players that make all the excitement happen. There’s an army behind them – the Playmakers – that bring the magic of the sport to life overseas. We went behind-the-scenes (and in the air, of course!) with this talented team to give you an insider’s look at what’s goes into putting on such a spectacular sporting event. Along the way, we gleaned some brilliant tips that can apply to any business:
1. Being “restlessly dissatisfied” is what gives you a competitive edge.
According to Mark Waller, Executive Vice President, International, NFL, “for any brand of entertainment, if you aren’t global you really run the risk of being marginalised.” So how do they continue to grow while maintaining the ultimate standards of quality they’re known for? He explains, “Our belief is that every year you look at what you’ve done, you take pride in that, but you also look at how you’re going to do it better next time around.”
In episode 1, Waller and other NFL executives explain what it takes to export a quintessentially American sport to a global arena, how they deliver the real deal to an international fan-base, and why they do it in London.
2. Even the smallest details matter when the stakes are sky high.
Episode 2 shows all the logistics and planning that go into flying six teams, up to 900 top-notch athletes, coaches, and staff, 132,000 pounds of equipment, and loads of ketchup (yes, ketchup) to London in a way that ensures absolute competitive equity.
Virgin Atlantic’s own Daniel Cornide, Airport Manager at Miami International Airport, is part of the team that leaves no stone unturned when preparing for these flights: “Our philosophy is to live to the passengers’ expectations and provide a safe and secure environment. The players need to arrive energised and on good form so they can perform at their peak on game day.”
3. You need to earn hearts and minds.
According to Alistair Kirkwood, Managing Director, NFL UK, “It’s not going to happen overnight. You’ve got to be there for the long-haul, and you’ve got to execute at a really high standard every step of the way.”
Episode 3 introduces you to the team, including London-born 2-time Super Bowl champ Osi Umenyiora and Event Director Maria Gigante, responsible for bringing the game to town in a big, bold way that delivers an authentic and unabashedly American experience
4. Whatever you do, make it epic.
There’s nothing quite like an NFL stadium on game day, and as you’ll see in Episode 4, you can expect the bar to be raised even higher when it’s live from London. From wiring the entire stadium so it’s football broadcast-ready to creating an entire splash zone to introduce the Miami Dolphins, the team is constantly raising the bar to make the experience as exciting as possible.
According to those responsible for putting on the show, you should never be satisfied. As Kirkwood puts it, “Hype, but don’t believe your own hype. You’re only as good as your next game. Your reputation is always on the line.”