Global Brands and Global Fans with Dean James and the NFL’s Gerrit Meier

Hero image featuring headshot photos of Eric Bradlow, Dean Erika James, and Gerrit Meier, Head of NFL International

Dean Erika James took the Wharton Global Forum stage with Gerrit Meier, the head of NFL International, for a fascinating conversation that drew parallels between the Wharton School and the NFL. During the session, which was moderated by Vice Dean of AI & Analytics Eric Bradlow, they shared their perspectives on brand management, global expansion, legacy preservation, and more.

A buzz of excitement filled the room when Meier brought up the NFL’s recent announcement that it will add Spain to its list of regular-season games — in alignment with its goal of becoming a global brand. Meanwhile, the NFL’s Brazil office will open in tandem with the first-ever South American NFL game happening in September 2024.

“It was important to see if Brazil would embrace hosting a game in the country,” Meier said. “When the NFL comes to a country, we want to learn from the country and create relevance to our product for people to enjoy.”

Similarly, Dean James pointed out, Wharton has made an investment by hosting the 56th Forum in Brazil and bringing its Global Youth Program to the country.

“We are pouring into Brazil, in the hopes that Brazil will come back to Wharton,” Dean James said.

She mentioned the School’s commitment to global understanding, with the Lauder Institute and the Huntsman Program paving the way for students to learn about communities around the world.

“The NFL has an ambition to be global. We strategically work to identify communities that we can build around. Brazil is important to the NFL. There is already a fan base of 36 million, so it’s a natural market.”

— Gerrit Meier, Head of NFL International

The experts talked about how the NFL and the School are preserving their respective legacies. While the NFL fosters the essence of the game, Wharton safeguards its remarkable reputation and the foundations of education. Dean James said Wharton’s brand is widely known across the world, and it can leverage the fact that it’s the best business school. It can offer more to the world than others, with its powerful network, tremendous faculty, and 10 different academic departments.

“It’s difficult for other schools to come up against our brand,” Dean James said.

As for the NFL, it will foster fan loyalty, team identity, and game experience — as it grows its international brand recognition.

“It’s important for the NFL to ensure its fans experience the game around the globe, the same way they would have experienced it in the United States,” Meier said.

Ultimately, the NFL and the School both strive to create positive interactions and cultivate long-term connections with thoughtful engagement.