You have to give credit to ESPN and the NFL. Over thirty five 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, all during prime time. The NFL Network also broadcast the event live. Coverage has even expanded to the combine.
How far has the event come? Check out this footage from the 1981 NFL draft by clicking here.
As the event grows, so do the marketing opportunities for brands to connect with fans. Here are some news and notes from a business perspective surrounding this year’s NFL Draft.
Imagine paying hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions in some cases) to an athlete who has yet to play a single NFL snap. That’s precisely the position many brands are in leading up to the NFL Draft. Which athletes might best represent their values while helping to sell more products and services? Is the investment worth the risk? Two years ago, Nike shelled out a significant amount of money to sign Johnny Manziel. The company recently parted ways with the embattled former A&M star after repeated off the field incidents and a lack of productivity on it.
Here is a quick look at a few deals that were inked prior to the draft.
New Era’s “Risky” Pick
New Era signed a deal a few years back to become the “official hat” of the NFL, a shrewd move, particularly on draft day when their product is given to EVERY player picked in the first round of the draft, particularly when you consider how much coverage the event now attracts. This year the brand signed a couple of individual players to endorsement deals leading up to the draft. One presents a sizable risk.
Click here to read the story from forbes.com.
MET-Rx, the sports supplement company, signed Ohio State defensive star Joey Bosa (who was selected ). What makes this deal unique is the brand’s strategy for how they will leverage the relationship as they plan to go “all in” on Bosa as he becomes the face of the company when they “re-launch” the brand and unveil new products.
Click here to read more from cleveland.com.
“Historic” Signing for Zappos
Zappos, the online shoe retailer, made headlines earlier this month when it was announced that they signed Notre Dame star Ronnie Stanley. Because Stanley chose to sign with a retailer and not endorse one specific brand, he will have the option to wear whichever shoe he favors next season.
Click here to read more from dailydot.com.
Nike’s Aggressive Approach
Nike was extremely aggressive in their efforts to ink NFL prospects this year, signing FIFTEEN players before the first name was called on Thursday. Eight of those players were selected in the first round. By comparison, rival Under Armour had only inked one endorsement deal with a draft prospect.
Nike welcomed several players with brief commercials (click here to see some examples from news.nike.com).
Click here to read the entire story on bloomberg.com.
Gone but not Forgotten
Gatorade rolled out a tribute campaign to Peyton Manning on draft day (good timing). In a clever commercial that features everyone from Derek Jeter to Manning fans, his brother and his father, the brand is likely strategically reinforcing Manning’s “good guy” image to maximize the value of their relationship with the now-retired star QB.
Click here to view the spot.
Is Jared Goff the “new” Peyton Manning?
While Denver may have drafted Paxton Lynch as Peyton Manning’s replacement at QB, former Cal QB Jared Goff played the part of pitchman extraordinaire in a series of tweets on draft day with shout outs to a number of brands including Gillette, Tide, Pantene, Red Bull and Microsoft.
While Jared Goff was cashing in on social media, one prospect’s Twitter account was allegedly hacked just prior to the draft and a picture was posted with him using marijuana. As a result, Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil watched his stock tumble, eventually being selected 5-10 places later than where he was projected. The difference in contract values from being picked #6 overall from #13 where he was picked? Nearly $8 MILLION. That doesn’t even factor in any national or local sponsors who are unlikely to consider him for endorsement deals.
Click here to read more from cnbc.com.
“DRAFT TOWN” IN CHICAGO
Chicago rolled out the red carpet for the NFL as this year’s host city, turning Grant Park into “Draft Town” for three days of events for fans. According to the Chicago Tribune, the “Draft Town” area will cover the equivalent of 20 football fields with attractions, displays and hands-on activities.
Click here for some visuals from chicagobusiness.com and here for a “Draft Town” slideshow from wgnradio.com.
Everything from a new NFL-themed Ferris wheel to Selection Square will be branded by sponsors at the draft in Chicago. A total of 38 brands will have a vested interest in seeing this year’s draft-related events be a success, including Skittles, Dannon, McDonald’s, Visa & Hyundai.
Click here to read more from chicagotribune.com.
Last year over 200,000 NFL fans visited Chicago for draft related festivities. According to a report from Temple University’s Sports Industry Research Institute (via foxbusiness.com). The result? An estimated $81.6 million in total economic impact for the area.
The report also suggested that last year’s event created more than 2,000 temporary jobs and more than 800 permanent jobs.
NFL DRAFT TV AUDIENCE
ESPN’s day one coverage of the NFL Draft saw a double digit drop in viewership with a 10% decline. It was, however, still the highest ratest program on cable television for the night.
Some speculated the ratings might enjoy an increase with the boost in draft day interest within the LA market as the re-located Rams held the #1 overall pick. However, LA wasn’t even a top ten market in terms of TV ratings. Here are the highest metered markets for Thursday’s coverage:
1. Cleveland (13.3)
2. Columbus (13.1)
3. New Orleans (7.8)
4. Dayton (7.7)
5. Birmingham (7.5)
OVERALL, ESPN and ESPN2 actually enjoyed a slight bump in overall audience from last year with an average of nearly 3 million viewers across three days of coverage making the 2016 NFL Draft the 7th most-viewed draft since 1994.
BEHIND THE SCENES W/ ESPN
Coverage this year also brought an interesting twist with the situation involving prospect Laremy Tunsil’s “hacked” Twitter account. Much has been made of how ESPN handled the situation during the broadcast. Sports Illustrated shares a “behind the scenes” look at exactly how things transpired…
Click here for the “Behind the Scenes of NFL Draft Coverage” story from si.com.
NFL players make a ton of money coming into the league, but when you’re a top draft pick, the amount of money to be made is unimaginable.Often, one of the first major purchases a highly paid athlete will make coming out of college is a home. In many cases, NFL players relocate from where they went to college to their team’s city or state.
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