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Chiefs president Mark Donovan sees team as budding ‘international’ brand

Players like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce offer Kansas City a very unique opportunity.

Kansas City Chiefs Victory Parade Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Since 2005 — the year of the first NFL regular-season games being held outside the United States — the league has made it a more significant point of focus each year to expand its brand internationally. The Kansas City Chiefs have taken part in two of these games, “hosting” the Detroit Lions in London in 2015 and “visiting” the Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico City in 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the league pause its international efforts in 2020, but it will pick up two London games in 2021. The NFL also has begun exploring the possibility of playing games in Germany.

The league’s focus on expanding internationally is especially relevant to the Chiefs, considering that in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, they have the league’s best player — and a formidable supporting cast.

“Patrick is iconic, and he’s not alone,” said Chiefs president Mark Donovan on Monday. “We think about the other players on our team and their social presence, their personalities. We feel like we are at a very unique, powerful point in our franchise — and there is a responsibility. I talk a lot about being prepared for success. There is a responsibility in our organization to utilize every opportunity to continue to grow — and international is one of the biggest lights that’s out there for us. The league has done something in the past year, and hopefully, it will be finalized [in] the fourth quarter this year. It will give franchises the opportunity to designate countries to be able to market into. And we are going extremely aggressively after that for exactly that reason. We’re going to maximize ‘right now.’”

In May 2020, NFL Network host (and Arrowhead Pride advocate) Peter Schrager called Mahomes the closest football player to Michael Jordan, lending credit to Donovan’s notion.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

“Patrick and Kelce and others — they're well known worldwide,” he added. “We’ve got to maximize that. We’ve got to take advantage of that. And we have the people, we have the process, we now have the opportunity with the league — and we absolutely think that’s one of the big, big growth opportunities for us. That sets you up for the future, when you think about what we do in the organization, to be able to sit here today and to be able to say, ‘We were part of growing this,’ so that 10 years from now, we’re a worldwide team — and we’ve got to do that right now.”

One of the other items that excited Donovan in the year after COVID-19 is the Chiefs’ 2021 schedule.

“This may be the most exciting home schedule in the history of our franchise when you think about not only the teams, but [also] where the teams are within their success right now. So from a fan perspective, it’s off the charts.”

In addition to hosting the AFC West, the Chiefs will welcome the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.

“We’ve become this international brand, we’ve become this brand of iconic players,” said Donovan. “Here’s the thing that our fans have to be aware of — and we see it already through ticket sales: we’re a bucket list destination, with the most amazing opponents coming in with their fan bases. You’re going to see a lot of Browns fans at Arrowhead for that first game. You’re going to see a lot of Cowboys fans. You’re going to see a lot of Packers fans. You’re going to see a lot of Steelers fans.

“It’s reality — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I would say this: that we challenge the ‘Kingdom’ to make sure that they leave here with their ears hurting — and they understand what the Arrowhead experience is.”