National Football League Kickoff game

National Football League Kickoff Game

National Football League Kickoff game

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The NFL Kickoff game, and related festivities, mark the start of the National Football League season. The first game of the season falls typically on the Thursday following Labor Day. A single game is held, preceded by a concert and other ceremonies. Since the 2004 season, the defending Super Bowl champion has hosted the showcased Kickoff game. The remainder of the league plays their opening weekend games the following Sunday or Monday. The pregame concert and game is televised live on NBC.


The Kickoff Game was introduced in the 2002 season, under the leadership of then-NFL marketing executive John Collins. It was a huge success, increasing NFL sponsorships by $1.9 billion over the next 14 months.

The concept of the NFL champion playing in an opening game was not altogether new, however. From 1934 to 1976, the first game of the season was the College All-Star Game, an exhibition match featuring the previous season's NFL champions against an all-rookie team of college all-stars held annually in Soldier Field in Chicago. The game was eventually canceled after the games had become lopsided in favor of the NFL.

The Kickoff Game was introduced as an effort to boost economic recovery in the New York City and Washington, D.C. areas in the wake of 9/11 with ESPN televising the first game. In order to do so, ESPN eliminated its traditional late-October Thursday night game (held the weekend of Games 1 and 2 of the World Series), and replaced it with the...
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