Business Blitz: The 2016 NFL Draft

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.

ENDORSEMENT DEALS

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

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.

Sponsors

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.

Economic Impact

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.

INFOGRAPHIC

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.

Click here to view a larger image on SCC’s Pinterest page.

 

The Best Grilled Cheese In Sports

In honor of today’s celebration of #NationalGrilledCheeseDay, we thought it would be fun to look at which teams offer a grilled cheese item on their concessions menu.  The task was surprisingly challenging as grilled cheese apparently isn’t considered much of a ballpark staple, despite the current trend of creating eclectic food items at sports venues.  It should also be noted that we haven’t actually tried any of these, so the ranking is rather arbitrary.

That said, here are the top five best grilled cheese sandwiches in sports…

Honorable Mentions:

Montgomery Biscuits – “The Gump”

While the  Biscuits actually offer FOUR variations of grilled cheese sandwiches, our vote goes to “The Gump” which incorporates pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, coleslaw, “candied red onions” with pepper jack cheese to provide some zip on sourdough bread.

Chicago White Sox – “Avocado Bacon Grilled Cheese”

Thanks Night Train Veeck for the heads up…avocado and bacon added to a grilled cheese sandwich?  Sounds delicious!

Round Rock Express – “Grilled Cheese Dog”

What says baseball more than hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks?  While The Express’ unique spin on a grilled cheese might not contain the peanuts or cracker jacks, but it has successfully combined the hot dog with a traditional, down home comfort food.  According to Minor League Baseball’s website, the “Grilled Cheese Dog” is made with a quarter-pound of Nolan Ryan’s 100-percent hand-selected All Natural Grass Fed Beef wrapped in a grilled cheese sandwich then skewered.  A true Texas delight.

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For Comparison’s Sake

Obviously a lot has been made of Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe’s critical comments of the UConn Huskies women’s basketball program.  The suggestion that their dominance was actually “bad” for the women’s game stirred quite a bit of controversy.  Not that it bothered the UConn women as they steamrolled their way to a historic 4th consecutive championship.

While comparing Husky women’s program to some of the blue blood men’s programs like Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina may prove to be unfair, comparing their impact to a rising power in the men’s ranks might provide a little perspective as to how valuable the UConn brand is to the women’s game.

In a totally unscientific, random but fun exercise, let’s use the Oregon Ducks as an example.  The Ducks earned a #1 seed in the men’s tournament while the Huskies were awarded a #1 seed in the women’s tournament.  Seems like a good place to start, no?

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Infographic: How are sports marketers targeting the female demographic?

Lately sports marketers have not been shy in their efforts to target female fans and for good reason.  Women now constitute at least 30% of the fan base for all of the “big four” professional sports leagues in the U.S. and 46% of Super Bowl viewers were female.

To provide a closer look, the fine folks at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Business School put together a fantastic infographic offering a quick look at ways brands are working to engage female fans.  For more analysis, check out this story on forbes.com from Kristi Dosh (and follow her on Twitter @sportsbizmiss).

NFL Jersey Sales

Think fast: which NFL player sells the most jerseys in Hawaii?  Titans’ standout rookie QB Marcus Mariota (who originally hails from Hawaii)?  Nope.  The most popular jersey in Hawaii is actually Seahawks’ star Russell Wilson.

That is just a sample of some of the data provided by Dick’s Sporting Goods.  See what other interesting information your students uncover by reviewing the following graphics in class…

College Football Season Recap: By the numbers…

With Alabama’s exciting win in a shootout over Clemson to win the 2016 College Football Championship, yet another college football season is in the books.

Here are a few sports business stories and statistics from this season that might be fun to discuss in class. Use this information to reinforce concepts like the size and scope of the industry, the impact of supply and demand on ticket prices, how sponsors connect their brands with fans and the critical role broadcast rights play in the business sports.

$3 Million

As in the expense for Alabama Football…just for their “support staff” payroll. According to cbssports.com, Alabama’s strength and conditioning coach was paid over $500,000 in compensation for the 2015 season.

$810,000

According to a report from USA Today, Auburn spent $810,000 to “brand” their practice facility with graphics that “tell the story of the Tigers’ success”, a trend being followed by football programs all over the country

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Evolution of the T-Shirt Toss

Fans love free stuff.  Especially t-shirts that are launched into the crowd.  That’s probably why a “t-shirt toss” has always been one of the most popular promos at sporting events.

However, at the Army vs. Navy college football Bowl game today, Army took things to a whole new level. Before we share that, however, let’s look at the evolution of the t-shirt toss promo.  Originally, we had your basic t-shirt “toss” where tees were thrown to the crowd.

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Holiday Kicks

Looks like a lot of holiday cheer this year as sneaker brands outfit some of their athletes with holiday themed kicks.  In fairness, a few of athletes appear to have gone rogue with their over the top ensembles (yes, you Odell Beckham Jr. and Cam Newton) but kind of fun either way to see them celebrating the holidays…

Odell Beckham Jr. and his Nike “Christmas” cleats

Cam Newton’s Under Armour cleats on game day

Kyrie Irving’s “Abominable Snowman” themed Nikes

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Action Sports on Tour…

I saw this upcoming show being promoted on a recent trip to Las Vegas and thought it was interesting and could present a good teaching opportunity:

Travis Pastrana is one of the most recognizable names in action sports so it makes total sense for him to headline an action sports tour like this.  Structured as a “touring” event, the benefits are twofold as this will certainly help extend his personal brand while helping to grow the popularity of the sport.  Taking the event on tour is a great way to bring the excitement of action sports to markets that haven’t had an opportunity to see events like the X Games or Dew Tour live and in person.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR CLASS DISCUSSION:

1) What is a brand?  Is action sports a brand?  Is Travis Pastrana a brand?

2) Why do you think they are touring rather than hosting one main event in one location?

3) What demographics might define the typical action sports fan?

4) What type of sponsors might be interested in reaching action sports fans?

 

The Art of the Concert Poster…In Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets have enjoyed a TON of buzz from a new initiative this year.  It looks like they enlisted the talents of graphic designer Anthony Zych (follow him on Twitter @anthonyzych) to create game-day prints promoting Blue Jackets games, each customized based on opponent.

They have been wildly popular among fans, many who apparently are disappointed they cannot purchase them as of yet.  They are, however, available as digital downloads for free.  Based on the reception Anthony’s designs thus far, one would expect the team to continue releasing the graphics. My guess is that Anthony’s services will soon be in high demand…my only question is, why isn’t every team doing this?

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

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