I am not well. Like some sort of Pavlovian experiment gone wrong, flipping the calendar from February to March triggers an involuntary nervous tick for me, and starts a pattern of sleepless nights. The stimulus has been removed, but I still respond to the yearly cycle.
The NFL season is over, and for most fans this is primarily a dead zone for football, minus a little free agency excitement. But that doesn’t mean that marketers should be turning their eyes away from the NFL. As a matter of fact, for those that are really paying attention, this could be a very exciting time for NFL activation.
In 11 years working in digital media for two NFL teams, this time of year was the most frantic, nerve wrenching time of the year. Most people don’t realize it, but we’re just weeks away from one of the peak days of the NFL calendar. In fact, in terms of web activity, the NFL Draft is THE peak day of the year for many involved.
In years past, viewers tuned into the broadcast of round 1, but once that round had concluded, they moved in droves to the web to find out more about their favorite team’s top pick, and stayed there as additional players were added to their team. For both teams that I worked for, the single-day site records for page views and unique visitors occurred during Day 2 of an NFL Draft.
To meet this demand, we would throw every capability and resource we had at providing the best Draft day coverage we could for fans, including live press conferences, producing our picks’ college highlights within minutes of making the selections, bios, interviews with scouts, streaming radio shows with team analysts, a live blog and Twitter feed and on and on. That included a completely redesigned homepage to handle all of this content. Draft days were the source of some of my greatest crew’s greatest feats, and colossal, unexplainable frustrations (how does a brand new video cable work during every live streaming test leading up to the draft, then fail the first time your GM walks to the podium?!).
And fans’ digital appetites for the draft have continued to grow and evolve in recent years. Fans are still consuming massive amounts of digital content, but they aren’t waiting until day 2 to do it. The quest for instant analysis and discussion of picks is insatiable, and fans were quickly turning to multiple devices and platforms to find it, even while the broadcast of round one was airing.
But it’s not just the amount of traffic and activity that makes this a big opportunity for brands and marketers. Just as importantly, there is seemingly a lack of recognition among brands and marketers for just how popular this event is on digital and social media. The NFL, the teams themselves, and their fans all produce incredible volumes of content. But every year that I worked in the NFL, getting corporate partnerships tied to the draft was more challenging than doing so for other, less popular initiatives. Despite all of the content and activity, among brands there is a relative lack of competition for these consumers’ attention.
NFL fans are talking during the NFL Draft, but will brands find ways to be part of that conversation, or provide to it? As the NFL continues to discuss ways to make the Draft more of a marquee broadcast event each year, my interest will be to see who does the best job of leveraging the ever growing amount of digital activity around this popular event.
But I’ll try not to worry about it too much.