After some 10-15 hours of flights, a labyrinthian bus ride off the plane around the tarmac and metropolis of Frankfurt Airport, one of the first signs you’d encounter this weekend would be a rotating digital video ad in front of a Hugo Boss store.
Even through some understandable disorientation, any Kansas Citian or NFL fan would instantly be struck by the familiar face of Patrick Mahomes.
That, and a Mahomes ad for Adidas we’d see just outside the airport exit, spoke for itself, to be sure. But it also embodied something more for Kansas City as the Chiefs arrived here to play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
“Seeing pictures of Patrick Mahomes like a model, in coats, when you land at the airport in Frankfurt is not just kind of interesting and cool,” Mayor Quinton Lucas, among Missouri and Kansas officials here on a trade mission, said in an interview with The Star on Friday. “But it means that somebody who lives in Kansas City is sharing a Kansas City brand (and) is normalizing us in a regular conversation of cities.”
It speaks to a certain sort of catalyzation, or at least increasing potential for it, between the NFL’s “It” team and a Kansas City on the move in so many ways: basking in a gleaming new airport, soon-to-open CPKC Stadium — understood to be the first venue dedicated to a professional women’s team — and less than three years from an unprecedented place on the global stage as a 2026 FIFA World Cup host city.
And it’s an emphatic reminder that Mahomes, the two-time NFL and Super Bowl MVP with unique flair and appeal, has been a pioneering force not just for the Chiefs and pro football but for the city to which he’s compelled so much attention. Through that dynamic, he’s become somewhere between an icebreaker and a gateway for Kansas City interests.
With Mahomes becoming synonymous with Kansas City, Kansas City quite arguably has become perceived as a cooler place to be. And it certainly is recognized in a fresh way — a way that helps account for Lucas, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe being here in something more than ambassadorial capacities.
Chiefs’ Germany trip enhancing trade partnerships
Exciting as it might be for Chiefs fans to be here to represent and be represented, Lucas was more cognizant of the doors he and his political colleagues were stepping through because of it: meetings with German business people “who have never been to Kansas City and are thinking about our region, talking about our region. That has the opportunity to be a real game-changer.”
Among other ways, Lucas meant that in terms of talks about enhancing already notable trade with Germany in Missouri and Kansas, more direct foreign investment opportunities, expanding international business connections and working toward increasing international flight options.
Moreover and significantly, this trip also provides a chance for Kansas City and the surrounding region to further make cases to be a base-camp headquarters for multiple countries during the World Cup.
“We plan to have further conversations with soccer federations of Germany, France and elsewhere to see what types of investments they may be looking to make into our city,” Lucas said. “And, of course, to try to highlight us as a place to send potentially tens of thousands of fans.”
While that process plays out, Lucas noted that Kansas City’s work in securing the World Cup — a momentous legacy of Kansas City Sports Commission president Kathy Nelson, KC2026 World Cup bid director Katherine Holland and their teams — in itself has become part of the city’s profile.
Not only does it stiff-arm “the elitism we ran into from other places,” as Lucas put it, it’s also a selling point in itself, as he laid out in business meetings here.
“It wasn’t just a one-off sports thing,” he said. “It was an incredible (bi-state and bipartisan) collaboration. It was a recognition of infrastructure we’ve built, hotels we’ve built, the airport … all of those sorts of things.
“And if we can do that for something that hopefully has a legacy but is temporary, (consider) what we can do for a substantial automobile manufacturer that’s looking to expand its presence in our region, and what we can do for some of the others that we know are out there.”
Because people now know Kansas City is out there more than ever through sports in general and Mahomes and the Chiefs in particular.
Putting Kansas City on the world map
In the experience of Lucas, that dynamic has fed off itself over the last few years. He frequently has sensed the reception he gets entering a room has “changed dramatically based on not just the Chiefs’ success but people having a chance to see Kansas City (because of it), to be part of what Kansas City is.”
Between its location in the middle of the country and TV market size (33rd in the nation), that’s a welcome, perhaps even essential, boost for Kansas City to gain more traction in business ventures.
New York isn’t just cool because of its tall buildings, he said, and Los Angeles isn’t just distinguished by being set near by the ocean and mountains. But …
“Our skyline isn’t in the backdrop of every film, ever; we don’t have that New York convenience where people are just naturally having it presented to them all the time,” he said. “Or (having the) ocean, like California. So we have to do a lot of work to share who we are and why we matter.”
Notwithstanding world-class institutions such as the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, nothing is more visible than Mahomes and the Chiefs — witnessed by a television audience of 169 million (56 million internationally) in Super Bowl LVII in February.
Mahomes is so popular here that a German couple recently came to the Kansas City area to be married largely because of their affection for him, and a German podcaster wrote a book about him (in German) that he says has sold more than 10,000 copies.
Everyone knows Patrick Mahomes
Indeed, virtually anywhere Lucas goes, Mahomes becomes one of the first topics. On a recent trip to France, for instance, he was interviewed about Mahomes by L’Equipe, the French daily sports newspaper.
“Patrick Mahomes is a more internationally known sports figure than I think most Kansas Citians recognize,” Lucas said, later adding, “There are constant conversations of the value of having a professional sports team. Just like the value of a college having a great athletic brand. Put me in the camp of suggesting that there’s a very high value to it. And not just for our locally based reasons, but for national and increasingly international reasons.”
Simply put in this case, Lucas said, business executives sometimes make decisions about where to go based on “what you’ve heard about the place. People have heard about Nashville, they’ve heard about Austin. And so they say, ‘Oh, this is a place where I would move a Tesla factory or my headquarters.’
“Us being in that global conversation is vital for the world that those of us who are pitching this city all the time are trying to do.”
So there’s a football game in Frankfurt on Sunday, one that will amplify the thousands of Chiefs fans who are here making an impression themselves.
But the game and associated trip also make for a snapshot of more enduring potential made possible by the phenomenon of Mahomes and the Chiefs.
“The Chiefs are kind of opening the door for us,” Lucas said, “but it’s up to all of us to make sure we’re taking advantage of the opportunities long-term.”
Because this could be less about a mere moment than about sheer momentum.
“It feels a lot more like the beginning of something,” he said. “For the Chiefs and for Kansas City.”