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Bucs Cheerleaders Abroad

Spreading the Word: Cheerleaders in London

Jul 14, 2009 – Their outfits drew looks, as is usually the case, frankly. In this case, however, some of the stares were born of confusion.

As it turns out, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders outfit is a real attention-getter in London, even more so than those wearing the uniforms expected. That’s true throughout the United Kingdom, actually…and that’s a good thing, because the half-dozen Buccaneers Cheerleaders who recently took a five-day promotional tour of the U.K. were there specifically to draw attention.

“Everyone loved us when we were there,” beamed Kelli Jones, one of the six Bucs Cheerleaders to make the trip in late June and early July along with Cheerleading Manager Sandy Charboneau. “At first, people didn’t really know why we were there or why we were dressed the way we were, because American football is not as big in Europe as soccer.”

Jones and her teammates were happy to fill in the blanks for any interested onlookers: They were in the U.K. to promote the 2009 American Bowl game between the Buccaneers and the New England Patriots. The Bucs and Patriots will face each other in London’s Wembley Stadium on October 25, marking the third consecutive year in which the NFL has staged one of its regular-season games at that site.

The first two American Bowl games in London — Miami vs. the New York Giants in 2007 and New Orleans vs. San Diego last year — were big hits among NFL fans in the United Kingdom. The league expects intense interest in the Tampa Bay-New England clash, too, and the Bucs’ Cheerleaders aimed to add to the growing excitement.

“We were there promoting the game, promoting the Buccaneers and trying to rally support for the game in October,” explained Jones. “So far I hear they’ve sold 70,000 tickets and they’re looking to sell at least 10,000 more. I think with our P.R. tour around U.K. we did a pretty good job.”

Jones and Charboneau were joined on the trip by fellow cheerleaders Anna Duncan, Roseanne Strobel, Tiffany Jimenez, Sara Tetzler and Stephanie Mookas. The Bucs’ most enthusiastic rooters have been globetrotters of late; another group of 12 cheerleaders recently returned form a tour of military bases in Japan and Guam.

The crew that went to Europe didn’t confine their efforts to London; they toured much of the United Kingdom, spreading the word about the Bucs’ impending visit from Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland to Brighton, Sheffield, Newcastle and other spots in England. When the Buccaneers return as a full team in October, their six visiting cheerleaders from the summer will be able to show the rest of the squad around. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders plan to arrive in London a week before the game to attend various events and promote the game again.

For Jones, the return visit will be a welcome one. Her advance trip with a handful of teammates was a five-day whirlwind of appearances and sightseeing, and unlike anything she had experienced before.

“I had never been overseas before, so it was very exciting me to make the trip,” gushed Jones. “I can actually say, ‘Oh, I was in London last week.’ How cool is that? It was nonstop but it was totally worth it. How often can you say you went to Europe and you got to see Scotland and all these castles and Buckingham Palace? Everybody can’t say that. It was an awesome trip. All the girls had such a good time.”

They made sure the people they met did, too. That was especially true during a trio of stops in Glasgow, Newcastle and Brighton, where the cheerleaders held clinics on their craft with groups of local children. Conducting such camps is nothing new to the cheerleaders, but it was a novel experience for the kids they encountered.

“It’s always fun to be around kids and see how excited they can be. I think that was probably the best part of the trip. Most of the kids were unfamiliar with American football, and cheerleaders in particular because cheerleading isn’t a big thing in the U.K. So they received us very well. They were so excited for us to be there. That was a lot of fun, hanging out with the kids. The surroundings were different, but kids like to have fun no matter where you are, so that was great. That was probably where we made the biggest impact.”

Whether in schools, on the streets or at Wimbledon — where they were interviewed for a British television network — the visiting cheerleaders did their best to represent the Buccaneers proudly.

“When we’re in uniform, we’re in a Buccaneers mindset,” said Jones. “It’s the Buccaneers, 24/7, no matter where we go. Just walking into a hotel, we know we’re representing the Buccaneers. That is constantly on our minds. We always knew what our purpose was while we were there: to represent the Bucs and the NFL as a whole in Europe. We’re trying to help spread American football around the world.”

That is the NFL’s ultimate goal, of course, and it has found a strong foothold in London. The games in 2007 and 2008 drew huge crowds, and the Buccaneers already have an impressive and loyal fan base in London. From the feedback she and her teammates received during their five days in the U.K., Jones believes this year’s game will prove to be very popular.

“I’m told the previous two games have been sold out, and I think we drummed up some more support with our media blitz,” said Jones. “We at least got the word out, so hopefully that will lead to some word-of-mouth and some added interest. I think it’s going to be a pretty big deal by the time we get there.”

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