Why the NFL is the Most Popular Sport in America

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2008

Decisions made many years ago by insightful men such as Pete Rozelle laid the groundwork for the NFL we know today.

The vision of these men has withstood record breaking television viewership, sponsorship deals, multi-million dollar signing bonuses and the evolution of the game into a multi-billion dollar business.

Their ideas were filled with foresight that we are only now truly seeing the benefits of. Although it took years of complicated negotiations, player strikes and lockouts, etc. to achieve the success the league is seeing today, the overall vision was quite simple.

The vision was that the more popular the entire league became, the more financially beneficial it would be for everyone.

The wisdom and foresight of this vision has led the NFL to unprecedented popularity and success.

So, why is the NFL so popular and successful?

The reason is due to the complete parity in the league.

Unlike most professional sports today, no matter where you live in the country, your team has an equal chance of winning the Super Bowl—this has caused the game to grow in popularity throughout every corner of the country, not just in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angles.

This widespread popularity has led to wealth unheard of anywhere else in the sporting world, foreseen by men like Pete Rozelle, Wellington Mara, Art Rooney and many others.

Currently the wealthiest team in the NFL is the Dallas Cowboys who valued at $1.5 billion by Forbes. The least wealthy team, the Minnesota Viking are still valued at $782 million.

This parity in team values can be seen in no other sport than the NFL and the reason for this parity in team’s bank accounts is due to the parity on the field.

League parity makes for a more exciting product, which makes for a more popular product which in turn leads to greater wealth for everyone.

The parity seen in the NFL today can be attributed to two main principles: equal revenue sharing and a salary cap.

Two-thirds of all NFL money comes from television contracts. That money is distributed 100 percent equally amongst all teams in the league. The large percentage of the remaining money comes from sponsors such as Rebook, Gatorade, Coors, etc. All the sponsorship money is, again, distributed 100 percent equally amongst all teams.

Finally there is the money that comes in through NFL licensed apparel, which, not to sound repetitive, is again distributed 100 percent equally amongst all teams.

This idea of equal revenue sharing ensures all teams are provided with more than enough money to put a quality football team on the field.

To make things even better, there is a league salary cap, meaning that no team can pay exceedingly more than another to acquire a team full of All-Stars.

The current NFL business model should be an example for all other sports. Revenue sharing, salary caps and the vision of a few men many years ago has made the NFL head and shoulders above any other sport in America in terms of popularity.


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