P&G is running a ‘virtual red carpet,’ Pizza Hut and Frito-Lay are sending homebound players food, and Bud Light wants fans to boo the commissioner on social media
The event, normally held in city venues that draw thousands of fans in a festival atmosphere, will take on a much different feel. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who normally greets first-round picks on an elaborate stage, will be announcing the picks from his home in Westchester County, New York.
Player interviews, which normally take place as they walk off stage, will also occur remotely. ESPN will keep a skeleton crew at its Bristol, Connecticut studio—including host Trey Wingo—where the network says everyone will adhere to social-distancing guidelines. But a majority of its analysts and commentators will contribute remotely from makeshift home studios. The production, partly handled by Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international technology team, will include 150 different video feeds from nearly 100 locations around the country, according to Disney.
Despite the lack of glitz, the draft is expected to draw a record number of eyeballs. That’s because, quite simply, there is no other sporting competition with the Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association seasons on hold as a result of the pandemic.
“If The Last Dance’s success is any indication that there is lack of original content and the desire that viewers have for something or anything pertaining to or close to live sports, the NFL Draft should be well above last year’s numbers,” Collins says. “The production of it should be fine and the viewers will tune in to see how they pull it off as well as who their team is selecting.” The 2019 NFL Draft, which was held in Nashville, Tennessee, drew 6.1 million viewers across TV and digital, up 11 percent from the year prior. According to the NFL, it was the most-watched draft in the event’s history.
In-broadcast sponsorships include Verizon, which is backing a “Prospect Cam” that will feature shots of prospects at their homes as they wait for their names to be called. Bud Light is sponsoring a “Virtual Huddle,” which a Disney ad sales representative described as a “branded multibox showcasing numerous ESPN talent from their home set-ups.”
Bud Light is also trying to uphold the draft day tradition of fans booing Goodell, even though the commish won’t be in front of a live audience. The brand, which is plugging its new seltzer variety, is asking fans to record a video of themselves booing, and then post it on social media tagging it with @budlight and #BooTheCommish. Bud Light even convinced the commissioner to have fun with it. A TV ad that will run on ESPN, NFL Network and ABC prior to the first pick shows Goodell sitting on his couch at home while inviting fans to keep the booing tradition alive. The campaign is from Wieden+Kennedy New York.
Pizza Hut’s name will be on a segment called “Draft Moment” that will feature flashbacks to previous drafts, while Lowe’s is presenting sponsor of the ESPN and NFL Network telecast. (ABC is running a separate telecast for rounds 1-3, before joining the ESPN/NFL Network simulcast for rounds 4-7.)
Lowe’s, which became the official home improvement retail sponsor of the league last year, will run ads touting the value of home—playing off the fact that most Americans are homebound. It also partnered with players, including expected top pick Joe Burrow, on a social effort. The former L.S.U. quarterback recently called Lowe’s associates in his hometown of Athens, Ohio and promoted the initiative on his social channels.
P&G’s virtual red carpet will feature videos of 40 draft prospects shot by family members, roommates and girlfriends, then edited by PR shop Taylor Global and posted to the athletes’ social-media accounts, as well as those of sponsoring brands and the NFL. The athletes, in some cases, will wear suits they already had tailored but couldn’t wear in public because of coronavirus shelter-in-place restrictions, or in other cases simply their everyday wear, as part of an effort P&G developed in cooperation with the NFL Players Association.
P&G brands Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Old Spice and Braun will participate in the virtual red carpet, with the first three brands also airing ads on ESPN during the show. In addition, Gillette will use the draft to break a new “Every Day Is Gameday” campaign from Grey New York, featuring draft prospects Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Ashtyn Davis and Cole Kmet, with a 30-second spot to air each day of the draft on ESPN and on ABC Thursday. The campaign will be amplified on Twitter through a FirstView buy on Thursday and a Promoted Trend on Friday.
Gillette celebrity barber Mark Baysinger will be interviewed as part of the NFL’s live-streamed Draft-A-Thon for charitable COVID-19 relief efforts that runs alongside the draft. He’ll highlight shaving product and personal protective equipment donations Gillette is making, including face shields it recently began making at its Boston plant.
“As soon as we learned the NFL Draft would be entirely digital, Gillette pivoted to create a spot that we believe is relevant to this shared experience, with help from the rookies featured in it, and still reflecting the ‘Every Day Is Gameday’ spirit we’ll be showcasing for the NFL season to come,” says John Claughton, brand director for Gillette North America. The campaign extends the personal responsibility idea in keeping with the “Best a man can be” campaign Gillette launched last year—but with an NFL emphasis.
The Old Spice effort includes an appearance by brand pitchman and former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa during the Draft-A-Thon, in which the brand is donating $320,000, or $10,000 on behalf of each NFL team, to the United Way. Old Spice is working with draft prospects Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons, Henry Ruggs III, CeeDee Lamb and others for the virtual red carpet. Those four also are doing media interviews with 20 national sports and lifestyle media outlets about the brand’s donation. And Old Spice is airing “Men Have Skin Too” commercials on ESPN all three nights of the draft, and on ABC the first two nights.