Do Younger Fans Want a "New" NFL, and Could A7FL be the Answer?

Do Younger Fans Want a "New" NFL, and Could A7FL be the Answer?

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By almost any metric, American football has long been one of the US’ dominant sports.

Super Bowl viewership increased every year between 2005 to 2012, peaking at 115 million viewers in 2015. The National Football League (NFL) garnered roughly $9.8 billion in revenue in 2020, which is more than Airbnb Inc. ABNB, DoorDash Inc. DASH and Netflix Inc. NFLX combined. Notably, 2020 was a poor year for the NFL, in part due to the pandemic, as the league reported $15 billion in revenue the previous year.

Despite its historic hold on American culture, the NFL is experiencing some setbacks. Super Bowl ratings hit a 15-year low in 2021, representing six years of consecutive decline in viewership. Granted, 2020 and 2021 were not typical years, but a look into some demographic information suggests that this slide is more than just a series of outliers. 

In fact, the league’s vice-like grip on younger viewers began years earlier. According to a report by Sports Media Watch, Super Bowl viewership has declined for individuals between the ages of 18 and 49 every year since 2011. In 2011, 52.5 million members of this prime advertiser demographic watched the Packers beat the Steelers. Ten years later, only 34.3 million of these same viewers watched Tom Brady’s Buccaneers take home the title, and the average age of the audience now exceeds 50, the threshold for AARP eligibility.  Other major league sports have had similar issues, as the average age of their viewers has increased as well; MLB’s topped out at 57 and even the NBA’s is 42.

At the same time, a report by Newzoo shows that e-sports has seen a rise in viewership especially among the demographic that the NFL has lost, hinting at a potential substitution. In fact, 474 million people will watch competitive gaming events this year, representing an 8.7% year-on-year increase. Additionally, global e-sports revenue is expected to exceed $1 billion this year, and a conservative estimate places the revenue at $1.6 billion in 2024.

How will the NFL compete with the fast-paced action of esports? And will younger fans - who are increasingly wary of playing football because of its potential for long term injuries - simply gravitate away from football and other traditional sports? The American 7s Football League’s (A7FL) professional, no-helmets, no-pads tackle football may represent exactly the answer that both traditional sports fans and younger viewers can agree upon.  

A7FL: Partnerships and Demographics

Since its first iteration as a Craiglist-organized pickup game, A7FL has raised $618,206 on StartEngine and amassed more than 825 investors.

The league’s action is fast-paced, furious and generates exciting in-your-face highlights that light up social media. The league’s new kid on the block attitude, embodied in its players’ out of this world nicknames and no holds bar style, generates over 120 million video views per year, interest from celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and NFL personalities include Deion Sanders and Marshawn Lynch, and over 750,000 devoted social media followers.  The most impressive statistic, however, is the demographic of followers the A7FL is attracting. It claims that 76% of its fans are between the ages of 18 and 34 — roughly twice as many as the NFL has in that young adult segment.

To expand its viewership, A7FL has secured key partnerships with distributors including Amazon AMZN’s Twitch, Meta Platforms Inc. FB’s Facebook Watch and, new in 2021, Triller-owned FITE TV as well as Fubo Sports Network FUBO.  In the third quarter of 2021, A7FL’s videos featured by digital partner WAVE.tv delivered more than 32 million video views, and ESPN’s SportsCenter shared a highlight that went viral with 20 million views and 30,000 comments.

Last season the league premiered a new programming package with two Sunday afternoon Games of the Week on FITE TV with a unique pay-per-view model, with the day’s early game serving as pure promotion via Facebook Watch. Then the league launched a Monday Night Football package with Fubo Sports Network, sandwiched between the Pro Fighters League and the Terrell Owens talkshow “Getcha Popcorn Ready.” With the expansion to 9 divisions and 36 teams for the 2022 season, there are even more programming options and outlets for the league to consider.

The league’s smash-mouth action and ability to generate insane highlights that appeal to younger fans have attracted attention from those deep within the sporting community. David Isaacs, a Co-Founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the head of the A7FL’s advisory board, called the sport “the UFC of football”.  Snoop Dogg let it be known he wanted a team as did NFL Hall of Famer and current head football coach at Jackson State University Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders who exclaimed: “I want a TEAM”!  Seattle Seahawks icon Marshawn Lynch was so impressed that his Beast Mode line of protective gear ZoomBang jumped in to sponsor the league last season.

With the eighth season around the corner (starting on March 27) and expansion to 9 divisions and 36 teams already, the A7FL is on its way to spreading its version of American football to the rest of the nation. 

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This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

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