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NFL Draft Sponsorship Is Not Scared Away By Labor Strife

April 26, 2011

This years NFL draft is going to be different than any other, for better or worse.  For one, it is taking place during a contentious labor situation, which is creating uncertainty about draft day demeanor, trades, support, appearances, and hype.  Despite this challenge, many teams, players, potential draft picks, and sponsors have blocked this out and proceeded as if the lockout is a non-factor.  Sponsors have teamed with the NFL to create new ways to sponsor the draft, getting their brands, former NFL players, and NFL fans involved in creative ways.

Last year, the league made a dramatic change to the draft, and it seems to have paid off.  Formerly, the draft was held over the weekend, with rounds 1-3 on Day 1, Saturday, and rounds 4-7 on Day 2, Sunday.  This created a few problems.  1) All the exciting picks took place in 1 day, which left people uninterested in the 2nd day.  2) The draft was too long, and people lost interest.  Therefore, the NFL spread out the Day 1 (rounds 1-3) picks into 2 days, shortened the minutes per pick in later rounds, and moved the draft to take place during primetime with round 1 on Thursday night and rounds 2 and 3 on Friday night.  This allowed the league to move rounds 4-7 to Saturday and solved many of their problems.  The weekday, primetime shift seems to have worked better than expected as it attracted over 10 million viewers last year.  Additionally, this year there is more interest in the draft and more sponsors than ever, despite the looming lockout.

Sponsors have not only lined up to participate in the draft, but they have also created new ways to get involved.  Some new sponsorship techniques include Anheuser-Busch (A-B) sponsoring the entire 2nd round using NFL legends to deliver the picks.  Bud Light will get on-air mentions during this round as well as part of the deal.  Additionally, the players will make appearances on behalf on A-B in NYC leading up to the draft.  Furthermore, A-B is implementing a Facebook-based sweepstakes offering $10 million for anyone who correctly predicts all 32 first-round picks in the proper order, although this is highly unlikely.

Verizon has another draft sweepstakes in which 3 fans will get the chance to announce a team’s pick in the 3rd round.  Points-of-sale, ads on Verizon’s subscription-based NFL Mobile service, and retired player appearances at retail stores will support the effort.  Another sponsor, EA Sports, is set to reveal its cover athlete on a national, primetime stage, which is being selected via fan vote for it’s “Madden NFL 12” video game. The winner will be announced on a smaller stage on ESPN’s SportsNation on Wednesday, then on the bigger, national, stage during the first round, where EA will simultaneously be holding a draft day event in Times Square.

It is clear that the NFL draft wont be the same this year, but not for the reasons you would think.  Sure, there is a potential lockout threat, but sponsors are not worried about that.  Sponsors saw the increase in viewers last year due to the move from the weekend to prime time, and sponsors expect the lockout to actually get more fans intrigued by the draft.  The NFL found a way to get more people to watch the draft, and, in turn, sponsors have responded favorable by finding new ways to get their names out their, the draft exciting, and fans involved.  These were great moves by both the NFL and it’s sponsors and I am looking forward to the new feel of the NFL draft.

– Michael

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2011 10:04 am

    I like the fact the league moved to put the early part of the Draft in prime-time…but like all the major TV networks…put their best stuff on Thursday night. I personally watch things other than football, although I admit I won’t miss the Draft for anything…ok, maybe I’ll have the remote handy – like every night. That being said, a decent percentage of the league’s fans are women and I am sure they watch things other than football also. I don’t know what the measuring stick is the NFL is using but I would have went for Friday, Saturday and Sunday instead of incorporating Thursday. Or even perhaps…”Monday Night Football – Draft Style?” Would ratings be as high…or higher?

  2. Mike permalink
    April 27, 2011 10:30 am

    I’m sure the NFL considered every option, Monday, Thursday, Sunday, etc. But their main goal was to spread out Day 1 to 2 days, and go to prime time. TV shows, NBA and NHL playoffs, etc., all went into the decision, and who knows what type of other issues they were dealing with. Either way, it worked out well for them so far, and we’ll see how long it lasts. The laid-back, all day, Saturday/Sunday format was awesome, I’ll give you that. I loved those days where the only thing on agenda for the entire weekend was the NFL draft. But, in the end, primetime was better for business and the NFL had to make a business move.

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