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Brazil is the NFL’s next hotspot

Brazil has already cultivated a football fanbase that is bigger than any country outside of the United States. The NFL is starting to pay attention.

Brazil is a country with a rich and successful history in soccer and mixed martial arts, but there is another sport on the rise. 

According to a survey conducted in 2020, Brazil has overtaken Mexico as the country with the most NFL fans outside of the United States. The NFL now has 63.7 million fans in Brazil, followed by Mexico at 48.5 million, and China at 41.9 million. But why is the NFL so popular in Brazil? Could it be Cairo Santos, the first player from Brazil, to have drawn more interest? Or is it that Tom Brady’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, is an icon in the country? 

Let’s take a look. 

Football has grown more popular in Brazil over the last two decades as it was made available on cable TV throughout the country, and the league has noticed. NFL Gamepass, the service which allows fans to replay games and listen to radio broadcasts, was made available in Brazil in 2020. The NFL also established NFL Brazil social media channels with content solely in Portuguese, with the official NFL Brazil Twitter account currently having just over 200,000 followers. They have even set up an NFL shop solely for Brazilian fans

But the country’s love of football doesn’t stop at watching the NFL. According to the Brazilian Confederation of American Football, there are about 4,500 active players in the country, excluding youth levels. The confederation was founded to grow the sport in the country, eventually aiding the first professional football team in Brazil in 1992, the Rio Guardians, who disbanded in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

The NFL Draft this year held a promotion by allowing celebrities and notable athletes to announce picks from all across the world. One of those athletes included Brazilian soccer player Filipe Luís announcing a Miami Dolphins draft pick in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Since the Dolphins land in Brazil’s international Home Marketing Area, a new league effort that pairs teams with countries around the world for exclusive marketing rights, the Dolphins are unofficially Brazil’s team, with Miami making content strictly for their Brazilian fans. 

But despite the attention the league pays to Brazil, it has yet to organize a game in South America like it does annually in London, Mexico City, and this year in Munich. Being the largest country in South America with an already established NFL fan base, hosting a game in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo should be next on the NFL’s wish list of international trips. That sets up perfectly for the Dolphins to host a game in Brazil within the next decade, as the country’s unofficial team could make an appearance in their Home Marketing Area. We’ve already seen games in Canada, Mexico, and Europe, and if they ever reach South America, Brazil would likely host first. 

Brazilian football fans can also get excited about their countryman Cairo Santos making his way into the league. Santos, a native of São Paulo, graduated from Tulane in 2014 and went undrafted, but later signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. After a three-year stint in Kansas City, he bounced around a few teams and now serves as the placekicker for the Chicago Bears. A lasting career with one of the league’s marquee franchises may bring more Brazilian fans to the sport, and it might inspire more Brazilian kids to trade in their futebol boots for some football spikes. 

Soccer will always remain king, but with the NFL making a significant impact in Brazil, they’ve shown that they can make an impact anywhere in Latin America. Who knows? Argentina, Perú, Colombia–these countries could all be next.