SBJ/April 23-29, 2012/Events and Attractions

NFL draft: Sponsors make their selections

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From an “administrative function” staged in hotel ballrooms until deep into the night to this week’s prime-time melodrama televised by both ESPN and NFL Network, the NFL draft has come a long way as an event.

Bud Light (above) and Verizon are among those leveraging the NFL draft.
This week’s draft has more sponsor activation than ever, and while ticket demand hasn’t quite reached Super Bowl levels, it is at new heights.

“The draft used to feel like just another meeting, and we always wanted to get to the point where you couldn’t get a ticket,” said Tracy Perlman, the NFL’s vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions, a 20-year league veteran. “People are asking, but I don’t have any tickets, and that’s because we’ve made it something fans and sponsors want to be part of.”


Added Peter O’Reilly, NFL vice president of fan strategy and marketing: “We’re at historic levels of activation and that’s because the draft is now more open and accessible than ever to sponsors and fans.”

Much of that accessibility has to do with the draft’s move to prime time, now in its third year. With a bigger audience, more fans and corporate sponsors want a piece of the action. Accordingly, the league has more “guest selectors” than ever.

EA’s “Madden NFL” cover athlete, to be unveiled in Times Square on Wednesday, will announce the pick for his team in the first round. Clubs are sending renowned team alums to announce their second-round picks, a round sponsored entirely by Bud Light.

Verizon Wireless’ Draft Dream sweepstakes is offering three fans the opportunity to announce picks in the third round. And in the fourth round, some 24 teams are sending guests to New York to make their selections. Many of the guest selectors won the right through local sponsor activation.

A record 26 draft prospects also will be on-site at Radio City Music Hall.

New NFL on-field licensees Nike and New Era will be well-integrated, with their products featured at the NFL’s 12,000-square-foot pop-up store, open for the month of April to celebrate the draft. A red-carpet-arrival event on draft day will start at the store.

During the draft, Nike’s new NFL jerseys will be customized on-site for presentation as each player selected takes the Radio City Music Hall stage. Events leading up to Thursday’s draft include an NFL Play 60 Youth Football Festival, Nike’s annual youth football leadership conference and EA’s “Madden” cover extravaganza. Local marketing support in New York City includes taxi toppers, subway signage, street pole banners and bus wraps.

Verizon returns as presenting sponsor of NFL Network’s three-day draft coverage. Verizon, which has the right to stream NFL Network coverage to its mobile phone users, will have on-air signage throughout its coverage, said David Pattillo, the league’s vice president of media sales. Verizon also has co-presenting sponsorship on NFL.com, which will include mock drafts and mobile integration.

ESPN’s draft coverage has Bud Light as a presenting sponsor. A-B’s sponsorship will include draft crawls, fan questions from the Bud Light Facebook page and interviews from the Bud Light Blue Room. Other ESPN draft sponsors are GM, Nike, AT&T, Axe, Fiat, Geico, Jim Beam and Samsung.


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