May 22, 2019 / By Yvette Signore
Year after year at the NFL Draft, we continue to see the main storyline hold true – college players’ childhood dreams turned to reality when they hear that anxiously-awaited telephone ring. What has changed, though, is the magnitude of exposure and celebration. As this festivity has garnered millions of fan eyeballs from coast to coast, on traditional and digital forms of media, brands capitalize on this event with the aim of making their name become ingrained in the emotional rollercoaster-like journey of these soon-to-be NFL players.
This year, the Draft summoned crazy, record-breaking numbers – numbers that basically made brands and TV networks drool (I mean, of course – when in Nashville… go big or go home.) According to the NFL, this year’s event reached new heights, with a total of 47.5 million viewers across all telecasts over the Draft’s three days (+5% compared to last year) – an average of 6.1 million viewers across all digital platforms, including NFL Network, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.
Oh, but that’s not all – how about the crowds? What is usually known as Broadway in Nashville, turned into an NFL haven, an electrified atmosphere of football fandom – MADNESS that you just wanted to join and dive into. A reported 600,000 fans gathered in downtown Nashville for the Draft – shattering the previous record of 250,000 set in Philadelphia in 2017. Even days BEFORE the Draft, Nashville was completely consumed by NFL fans; Tuesday mid-day as I printed briefing books in a FedEx on Broadway, the store was quite literally shaking from the loud music and celebrations from the intersection saturated with fans – a colorful oasis of different jerseys, from old-school vintage Dallas gear, to the new, fierce designs of the NY Jets, and everything in between. Heck – there were so many people that there was even news of disgruntled future brides who were surprised to discover that their bachelorette party destination had become the biggest tailgate party ever seen (just a heads up to future brides reading this – next year’s Draft is in Las Vegas). So, you get the picture: big crowds + large viewership = biggest NFL Draft to date.
And yes, for brands, what a perfect event to tap into – you have millions invested, and those millions CARE and have PASSION around this event – a marketing dream come true. My entire life, I viewed this event through a fan lens, but with this being my first business trip ever (which is CRAZY AWESOME to say it was the NFL Draft) I was able to tilt my head and gain a new perspective – viewing this mega attraction from a marketer’s lens. Representing P&G on the Braun side of things, I had the privilege of understanding the thought process, the planning, and the execution of incredible content that – before my professional working days – I would have consumed (and loved) on my social feeds and shared to project my crazy NFL fandom (oh, and I’m not just saying this because I’m biased, but if I saw this without being part of the campaign, I would have genuinely shared this content as a fan). It truly is an incredible opportunity to gain a behind-the-scenes look at concepts you never knew the full story about, yet consume as a digital user on a daily basis.
When it comes to our P&G team here at Taylor – not only do we need to meet the business objectives of our client partner, but also the needs of the fan. One simply can’t create branded content without serving the target audience in a way that strikes a chord with them, that captures the essence of what they’re feeling. That’s what we truly aimed for AND captured with our Braun social media posts. Take a step back (or back up to the first paragraph) – what is the NFL Draft about for fans? We wanted to capture that hype, that excitement – that feeling the fans felt the moment their team grew by one to make them stronger. And we did just that.
On the bright (and way too hot) day prior to the Draft, the group of athletes we engaged on behalf of Braun visited the P&G Style Lounge, received proper Braun grooming on the eve of the big night, and showed off their new looks (and best poses) in front of the camera. Following the Braun photoshoot with our eight soon-to-be NFL players, everything came full circle as the players posted their photos to their Twitter and Instagram accounts. We had them post minutes after they were drafted, so it became ingrained in the process, as it was their first post and announcement via the social media world on behalf of their new team (see example here). The timing allowed fan bases to treat the posts as a celebration, leading to explosive engagements on social. Night of, and even days after, it was incredible reading through all the responses – the comments were saturated with packs of pumped up fans, congratulating and welcoming players to their cities and teams. We even had a handful of NFL players and official team accounts express their enthusiasm about these posts – I mean, it was crazy how these posts popped off!
To fully understand the magnitude of Braun’s conversation and its level of success on social during the Draft, we analyzed activations from other big-name brands in the social space during the first two rounds of the NFL Draft and compared conversational impact – the share of voice. Braun came in second place with 17.91% share of voice in overall Draft brand conversation – just after Bose, which had NFL amplification.
Bose’s social program for the Draft had similarities to Braun’s in terms of its delivery and tone. Like Braun, Bose set out to be draft prospects’ first branded post the night of, aiming to be integrated into the players’ drafting process. Compatible with Instagram, Bose created personalized gifs for each of their contracted players – showing the players cheering, dancing, and celebrating with music looped in the background, all while wearing their new teams’ hat and Bose headphones (see example here). Being that their timing, like Braun’s, was to be posted within minutes after being drafted, their post was meant to capture that celebratory sentiment as well, and their post also garnered pumped-up fan responses welcoming players to the team. While Braun and Bose aimed for similar reactions and to convey a team-reveal-like post, they brought those feelings to fruition in different ways.
With Braun, in order to really create buzz with fans, garner engagements, and connect with its audience, fan insights were our first priority, and brand second. It’s how we best believed we would make the content truly resonate, and how we would get the necessary engagement levels. Our copy focused on the team first, and Braun second. Our research delved into all the nuances of fan language – unique hashtags, phrases, traditions, you name it – from each and every fan base so that our copy came across natural and relatable to the fans. Our photo, instead of showcasing product, highlighted the benefit of the product (their faces after grooming) and decided to make vivid the team hats and colors as the focal point. Again, all to hone in on what fans truly care about around this event, so our content seemed less “ad-like” and more authentic to the fans.
From initial research on fan insights, to watching posts go live – this entire process was one of the most rewarding, exhilarating, stressful yet FUN (serious emphasis on the “fun” – I am a die-hard NFL fan) experiences I’ve ever had – where I was pushed, where I grew, and where I learned a great deal about building and activating a campaign in the demanding space of sports marketing. Understanding the importance of digging deep into the NFL fan (or any target audience of a client partner) and how that will lead to a successful campaign is so eye-opening, during even the earliest brainstorming stages. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by a team that puts that into play on a daily basis.
NFL Draft 2020 – bring it on!
To see all eight of our players’ photos, check them out here!