Despite the score at the end of the Jaguars game in London, one thing was clear: Jacksonville was a huge winner.
I was fortunate to be in London on business and expanded my trip to include entertaining clients at the Jaguars game.
What Wayne Weaver did for Jacksonville on a national level, Shad Khan and his outstanding executive team are doing on an international level.
Jacksonville was everywhere. From print to radio, TV to digital, Jacksonville was as common a reference as Premier League soccer and the christening of Prince George.
An estimated 40,000 fans were at Trafalgar Square for a pep rally.
The next day we attended a tailgate party on the grounds of Wembley Stadium, which was clad in Jaguars graphics. About 83,000 ticketed fans were entertained by Jaxon De Ville, Jaguars cheerleaders and the drum line.
Lines at souvenir stands outside the stadium stacked 40 fans deep to buy Jaguars items, which sold out.
Teal and black dotted the landscape.
As the team’s original manager of media relations, much effort in those early years was dedicated to simply introducing national media and a national audience to the city of Jacksonville. After two decades of franchise history, hosting a Super Bowl and ongoing economic growth, Jacksonville is firmly on the national map.
Last week the Jaguars were introduced to London by Shad Khan, the owner who seems to have rock star status. Through his charm and authenticity, he has won over a British media.
Jacksonville’s exceptional business and civic leaders have seized this opportunity. News reports of economic development efforts couldn’t begin to capture the hard work I observed going on in hotel lobbies and in the stands.
At one point in the trip, a British fan asked me, “Are the Jaguars moving to London?”
“Unlikely,” I answered.
Do they need to put a more competitive product on the field? Khan acknowledges as much.
But one thing is clear. The London experiment was a success and will continue to bear fruit with at least three more years committed to games abroad.