SBJ/March 17-23, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

For ‘Draft Day’ promotion, NFL is going the extra yard

NFL executive Tracy Perlman was walking on the field before the Super Bowl with actors Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Denis Leary when they stopped and looked up at the MetLife Stadium video boards showing the trailer for “Draft Day.”

“They were all like, ‘Wow,’” said Perlman, the NFL’s vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions. “They couldn’t believe that the trailer for their movie was projected on those huge screens before the Super Bowl.”

The league wasn’t done there with putting its spotlight on “Draft Day,” a film that already has received as much, if not more, cooperation in production from a major sports league as any Hollywood picture. Far from it. In the coming weeks, a number of efforts will play out that draw directly from the NFL working with lead production company Summit Entertainment on the marketing of the film, all building to the movie’s April 11 nationwide release.

There will be screenings for top league sponsors and NFL team season-ticket holders. NFL leadership and select others are being given early viewings of “Draft Day” as well. Add in efforts across the league’s TV, digital and radio outlets, and football fans will get no shortage of “Draft Day” promotion alongside their NFL news and talk in the coming three weeks.

“We’re using our resources and not hesitating to scream out loud that we’re really proud of the movie,” Perlman said. “We feel that people are going to like what they see.”

Directed by Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters,” “Stripes”), “Draft Day” (rated PG-13) stars Costner as Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, and focuses on 12 hours of dramatic moves leading up to the opening selections of the NFL draft. Costner’s co-stars include Garner, Leary, Frank Langella and Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in “42”), but his biggest co-star may be the NFL itself.

The Houston Texans’ Arian Foster, shown during production, has a speaking part in the film.
Photo by: DALE ROBINETTE / COURTESY OF SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT
The league allowed Reitman and his crew to shoot scenes around the 2013 NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall (SportsBusiness Journal, July 15-21, 2013). Commissioner Roger Goodell has a few lines of dialogue in the film, and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and several NFL Network and ESPN broadcasters (including Rich Eisen and Chris Berman) have speaking roles in the movie.

Even Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner, who resigned his position with the team last month, has a cameo.

“There’s nothing like the organization and the machine that the NFL is,” said Ali Bell, one of the film’s producers. “The league has been so cooperative in the making and the marketing of the movie. We’re fortunate and appreciative.”

Scenes were shot in the offices of the Browns, along with exterior footage of the facilities of the Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and other teams. Products of the league’s official partners, including Pepsi, Gatorade, Papa John’s and General Motors (with an array of GMC vehicles) are visible throughout the 110-minute movie.

“We couldn’t make up the team names, the way some sports films have, and create our own league or own draft,” Reitman said. “The film wouldn’t have any power and wouldn’t have the energy. We could not have made this film without the cooperation of the NFL.”

The subsequent marketing of the film has taken on a similar flair.

When Summit decided to open the film in April (one month before this year’s draft, May 8-10), the producers and the NFL were able to take advantage of the giant platform that this year’s New York Super Bowl could provide. It was an unexpected benefit of sorts: The Super Bowl promotion was not included in any agreement between the NFL and the producers of “Draft Day” prior to the making of the movie because its release date was unknown at the time. But what a bonus it turned out to be.

“Draft Day” stars Jennifer Garner, Kevin Costner and Denis Leary attended the Super Bowl in January.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The lead actors participated in a press conference in the NFL media center two days before the game and conducted interviews on Radio Row and on NFL Network. Garner presented an award at NFL Honors, the league’s awards banquet for top players and plays, at Radio City Music Hall on the eve of the Super Bowl. On game day, the stars of the movie walked the red carpet for Fox’s pregame show. Additionally, the movie’s trailer was shown hourly on the LED boards on Super Bowl Boulevard, the league’s fan festival in Times Square in the week leading up to the game.

Now, with just over three weeks to go till the movie’s premiere, the publicity is ramping up again.

Feature stories on the making of “Draft Day” will be published on NFL.com. Segments on the film also will be presented on the NFL Network.

The movie’s website has links to both NFL.com and the league’s draft-specific website.

Beginning April 1, SiriusXM NFL Radio will host interviews about the movie and run 30-second spots and 10-second live reads promoting it. Ads will run on NFL radio partner Westwood One Sports. NFL Shop is sending out email blasts to herald the film’s opening. The NFL also plans to take out at least one full-page ad in USA Today to promote the film in the days before its release.

According to Perlman, if the Texans’ Foster — who plays Browns draft prospect Ray Jennings in the film — can be available without interruption to his preseason training regimen, he will make national media appearances in support of the movie, as well.

The NFL also has worked with Summit on presenting screenings of the film. Before the final cut of “Draft Day” was made, Reitman and Bell arranged showings in New York for Goodell and senior vice presidents of the league. Other league staffers got to see the movie before the Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Teams get into the act

In addition to the Cleveland Browns’ plans for a red-carpet event, at least 25 NFL teams are hosting “Draft Day” screenings to drum up media coverage of the film in their markets. Many of those teams are still finalizing their plans, but among those that have set their screenings:

Baltimore — March 25, Landmark Harbor East (340 seats): Ravens players are expected to attend, as well as the team’s cheerleaders and band.
Indianapolis — March 27, AMC Castleton Square 14 (300 seats): Colts punter Pat McAfee and tight end Dwayne Allen are among the players planning to attend the screening for select season-ticket holders.
Dallas — March 27, Cinemark 17 and IMAX (595 seats): Cowboys cheerleaders will greet season-ticket holders as they enter the theater.
Houston — April 10, Studio Movie Grill at City Centre (200 seats): Texans running back Arian Foster, who has a supporting role in the movie, will attend the event for suite holders. There will be a two-hour cocktail reception before the screening.

— Christopher Botta

“The purpose was strictly for accuracy and authenticity: how trades are made, how they get approved by the league before becoming official, those kinds of things,” Perlman said. “There were no issues. The commissioner told me, ‘I found myself watching it as a fan and really enjoyed it.’”

Now that the movie is a finished product, the NFL is arranging screenings for top sponsors so they can see how their products are featured in the film. In late February, all NFL teams were offered the opportunity to host a screening for select season-ticket holders from the NFL Membership Club program.

The Browns, the team that is featured in the film, are working with the Greater Cleveland Film Commission on a screening at the 800-seat Ohio Theatre at PlayhouseSquare in early April.

“We’re going to have a red carpet and make it really special, like a premiere,” said Kevin Griffin, vice president of fan experience and marketing for the Browns. “We’re proud to be a big part of a Hollywood movie.”

Although details are not yet set, Griffin said the club views the screening not as a sales event for the team but rather as a benefit for charity: Some tickets to the event will be placed for bid, with proceeds going to the Cleveland Browns Foundation. Browns players and members of the football staff will attend.

Of the screenings conducted so far, one had special meaning for Bell, the producer. An alumnus of the film school at Florida State University, Bell — along with Terry Crews, who plays the father of Foster’s character in the movie — hosted a screening at a Los Angeles theater for coach Jimbo Fisher and the FSU football team on the eve of the BCS championship game in January.

“Coach Fisher told me that he liked the way the film talked about the character of the players, not just their statistics,” Bell said. “And then the next night his team came back to beat Auburn for the title. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.”

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