NFL Draft Marketing

You have to give credit to ESPN and the NFL.  A little more than thirty years ago (the original plan to broadcast the draft was hatched in Bristol back in 1980), most people thought televising the draft was a crazy idea.  Critics suggested the draft was unwatchable, especially as an all-day event.  Even those who supported the idea did so with little confidence.  Fast forward to today.  This year, ESPN will spend three days covering the draft, much of it during prime time. The NFL Network will also be broadcasting the event live.  The NFL Network set a draft viewership record last year, averaging nearly 570,000 viewers for its three-day coverage while ESPN averaged nearly 3 million viewers during the same span, according to the Sports Business Journal.  But here’s the thing…the NFL and ESPN are no longer the only brands looking to cash in.

Given the competitive nature of the shoe and apparel business, the number of fans tuning in for the draft provides an excellent platform for footwear and apparel companies like Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Under Armour to showcase their brands.  Notably absent this year, however, will be the Reebok logo on the hats worn by players as they take the stage when their names have been called.  Reebok’s deal with the NFL recently expired and New Era becomes the official on-field cap for the league.  New Era hasn’t wasted any time leveraging the partnership with the league, recently rolling out newly designed draft day caps on the company Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Nike will take over the exclusive uniform rights.  The news of tweaks to uniform designs and fabric technology came with much fanfare, and the company’s “reveal” event created a lot of chatter.  However, the brand announced at the event that new jerseys would not be available for purchase until draft day.  Nobody generates buzz and manufactures demand like the ever opportunistic swoosh.

Never one to stand idly by, long-time Nike rival adidas invested in a lucrative endorsement deal with this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III.  RG3, as he’s also known, is expected to go second overall in the draft to the Washington Redskins (the Indianapolis Colts have reportedly already told Andrew Luck they plan to select him with the number one pick).  You can bet adidas will be doing all they can throughout the draft to maximize the brand’s exposure via their relationship with the popular QB and that of Ryan Tannehill (from Texas A&M), who adidas also recently signed and is expected by many to be the third quarterback selected.  A commercial featuring RG3 is already posted on YouTube…expect to see it many times during draft coverage.

Under Armour, recognizing the potential challenges in gaining prominent exposure for the brand during the draft, focused its efforts to gain consumer attention by building buzz at the NFL combine.  To do so, the brand developed an extensive social media campaign to support its sponsorship of the event.  That strategy allowed the Maryland-based company to effectively promote the brand without getting lost in the draft-day hype of Nike’s new uniforms or the adidas relationship with RG3.

Coverage of the 2012 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 26th at 8:00 ET on ESPN and on the NFL Network (Verizon Wireless users will also be able to tune in on their mobile device).

Side note:  Click here to see footage of the 1981 NFL Draft on YouTube…it really is amazing to see how far the event has come.

Around the Horn: April 17th

Groundbreaking news from the racing world:  Announced today, the Ford Focus will become the first ever electric car to lead the field as the pace care at a NASCAR event during the April 28th Sprint Cup race in Richmond.  The decision drives homes NASCAR’s continued emphasis on green initiatives, but Ford has the most to gain by showcasing an electric model and educating a large number of consumers about new technologies.

Today a Kenyan runner won the men’s division of the Boston Marathon, marking the 19th time in 22 years that a Kenyan has won the prestigious race.  A Kenyan runner also finished first in the women’s race, the 3rd time that has happened in the previous 5 years.  The big winner, however, is the city of Boston.  According to estimates from the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (via myfoxboston.com), the race was expected to bring in over $137 million to the Greater Boston area, an economic impact roughly equal to that of a Final Four.

With 22 million hits already, I must be one of the last to see this TNT viral video…however, if you are like me and hadn’t seen it yet, you should definitely check it out.  The stunt provided a brilliant means for building buzz surrounding the launch of the station in Belgium…

Did the Planned Parenthood PR debacle back in January really result in a significant drop in participation rates for Susan G. Komen for the Cure events as USA Today is reporting?  If so, that’s the sad end result of a botched crisis management effort, providing a perfect example of why the “all publicity is good publicity” theory isn’t exactly spot on…

Last night, the world of entertainment marketing gave us one of the most innovative things we’ve seen in a while after a performance at the Coachella music festival managed to create a frenzied buzz among fans all over the Internet.  During a Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg concert, a 3-D hologram of Tupac Shakur (who died 15 years ago) created the illusion of the legendary rapper performing live.  As a testament to the stunt’s overwhelming popularity, 2pac’s HOLOGRAM had nearly 3,500 followers within 12 hours after his “appearance” on stage…

The Twitterverse (via @msament) presents this week’s installment of Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm:  “Misplaced priorities? KY public colleges fund subsidize athletics by $50M while state cuts school funds by $105M..http://bit.ly/HCr2ah.”

Around the Horn: April 9th

A few newsworthy items relating to the Masters Sunday from a sports business perspective:

* ESPN Radio reported that Bubba Watson earned just over $5,000 per golf shot for the tournament for a total of $1.44 million

* Despite a dramatic playoff finish, television ratings for this year’s Masters suffered a significant drop off, falling 22% from last year’s tournament.

* Sunday’s win helped propel Bubba’s personal brand, particularly from a social media perspective as the number of people following Watson shot up nearly 60% less than 24 hours after Sunday’s victory. (via @DarrenRovell on Twitter)

* According to a story that appeared online today at forbes.com, Watson’s N-Score (measures a sports figure’s overall endorsement potential based on appeal and awareness) suffers low awareness scores, but his appeal scores are “off the charts” (68% of respondents said they like Watson while 52% like Phil Mickelson)…obviously winning the Masters will give Bubba a very significant bump in awareness scores, meaning he now stands to gain much more than the $1.44 million in prize money thanks to the huge victory on one of golf’s grand stages.

* Many attribute the drop in ratings to the fact that Tiger Woods was not a threat to win…according forbes.com story, just 17% of respondents said they like Tiger, a testament to how polarizing Woods remains.

* Watson’s current golf-related endorsement deals?  Clubs (Ping), balls (Titleist), shoes (Footjoy), socks (Kentwool)…one would assume the asking price might increase at next round of negotiations.

Rare is the athlete who manages to land an endorsement deal for a non-sports performance product, but Robert Griffin III is certainly not the average QB prospect.  It was announced today that RG3 signed a deal with Castrol, news that certainly speaks to his potential both on and off the field.

There is a lot of excitement surrounding tonight’s debut of Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish.  How much excitement?  According to the analysts at Front Row Analytics, just wearing a Nike glove and cleats will provide Nike with over $28,000 in exposure on Fox Sports Southwest’s broadcast of tonight’s game. (via @FRAnalytics on Twitter)

Around the Horn: April 6th

Remember the two-foot-long hotdogs being sold at Rangers stadium this year (aka the “boomstick”)?  ESPN reports they sold 191 of those monsters on opening day.

Brewers fans will see a familiar face in many of the team’s TV spots this season.  Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the Brew Crew will feature Packers’ star QB Aaron Rodgers in several of the ads…interesting decision to bring a sports hero from a different local professional team into the team’s marketing plans.

From the Twitterverse (via @TVSportsratings): “Swamp People (4.5 mil viewers) had a larger audience than The Masters, both NBA games on TNT, 2 MLB games on ESPN2, NHL on NBCS.“  Am I the only one surprised by this?

First it was Tebow Mania, then Linsanity…now apparently three Giants fans are competing for the trademark rights to “Tim-Sanity.”  Sure seems like overkill to me but not sure Tim-Sanity will catch on anyway…wishful thinking perhaps?

Vanilla Ice performed at half-time of a recent Minnesota Timberwolves game…still trying to figure out if the game sold out but love the effort from the Wolves’ staff to attract a crowd.  Attendance at the Target Center is up over 13% on the season, best in the NBA.

Around the Horn: April 5th

For those interested in Masters social media, the folks at Octagon First Call have assembled a “social media guide” to the 76th Masters golf tournament at Augusta.  Great resource for those who want to follow their favorite golfers or get real-time updates on scores.

Need evidence to support your theory that the NBA loves star power?  Look no further than last night’s highlights of the Clippers vs. Lakers game on nba.com.  Based on the ratio of Clippers to Lakers highlights, one would assume the Clippers won the game (they didn’t).  That said, seeing Blake Griffin dunking on Gasol like that (twice) makes a pretty compelling case for why Kia and Subway seem to think he can help them sell more product.

Brands looking for the next up and coming athlete with real star power don’t need to look any further than Robert Griffin III, better know as RG3, who posted his first tweet to his twitter account this week.  Just 24 hours later, he already had nearly 75,000 followers (and nearly 80,000 at the time of this post).  You think this guy is going to help whichever team drafts him sell tickets?  Adidas also stands to benefit from RG3′s foray into social media because Griffin endorses the brand.  Nike probably isn’t complaining either, knowing the former Baylor QB is likely to sell a LOT of jerseys, and they now have the sacred NFL apparel deal.

Speaking of the NFL’s apparel deal with Nike, I’m still amazed how much hype Nike‘s new uniform “reveal” event on Tuesday generated.  Nobody manufactures buzz like the swoosh

For those wondering how lucrative the digital media market is for the NCAA, AdAge recently reported that digital viewership of March Madness generates $60 million in advertising revenue for Turner and CBS.

In entertainment news, it was announced earlier this week that James Bond (Daniel Craig) will help open the Summer Games in London.  GREAT score for MGM Studios as over a billion people are expected to watch the Opening Ceremonies…

JOB SEEKERS!  Seattle University Athletics is looking for a ticket sales Account Executive & Assistant GM of ticket sales.  For more details, please see the previous post on our blog.

Job Opportunity

CALLING ALL JOB SEEKERS!

Seattle University Athletics is currently looking to fill two positions.  Please review the details below for a Ticket Sales Account Executive position and the role of Assistant GM of Ticket Sales.  To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume, and three references by April 13, 2012 to:

Brandy Flaherty
General Manager – Sales & Service
Seattle University
206-220-8582
Flahertb@seattleu.edu

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