While the Summer Olympics captivated the world over the summer, the memories of swimming pools and the track are beginning to fade as New Englanders have started to put London in the rear view mirror and turn their attention stateside to the 2012 NFL season.
Although football fans are now tuned in to one of the United States' most popular pastimes, the Patriots Cheerleaders are still in an international state of mind. Members of the Patriots cheer squad and Cheerleader Director Tracy Sormanti were recently invited to travel to Shanghai, China, and participate in the second annual Nike Festival of Sport (FOS) and serve as ambassadors of "American Football."
The main goal of the FOS is to increase participation of sports in China and this year's event featured a number of sports categories including soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, action sports and of course, football.
Nike, which became the official on-field sponsor of the NFL in 2012, collaborated with NFL China to set up a NFL Zone at the FOS with the goal of promoting international awareness of football. The NFL Zone featured interactive games, flag football and demonstrations by a local team, the Shanghai Warriors. The Patriots Cheerleaders, along with former San Diego Chargers and New York Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson were stationed in the NFL Zone to help greet and interact with fans.
Heather, a three-year member of the Patriots Cheerleaders, explained that while football is nowhere near as popular in China as it is in the United States, the sport is trending in the right direction.
According to a recent study by NFL China, the New England Patriots are the most popular NFL team in the country and accounted for more than a quarter of the survey's votes. Heather and the rest of the cheerleaders noticed this trend during their time at the FOS.
"There were actually a few Patriots fans there that we took pictures with," said Heather. "It was cool. It was almost like seeing a familiar face."
While the cheerleaders and Tomlinson were a hit at the NFL Zone, the FOS also featured a number of other star athletes including basketball players LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire.
In addition to their appearances and demonstrations in the NFL section of the FOS, the cheerleaders performed at an indoor skate park and helped lead a Nike Training Club fitness class in the women's-specific section of the festival.
Although the squad's Shangai adventure is over, Sormanti recently departed on a second trip to China to help the NFL promote their 2012 NFL Kickoff.
"This time around it's more of an NFL experience tour," said second year Patriots Cheerleader Jodi, who attended the trip to Shanghai. "They're visiting Beijing, as opposed to Shanghai, and will be working in part with Under Armour to help promote the NFL."