The 2020 NFL Draft operated with few hiccups despite its virtual shift, drawing a record-setting number of viewers across all three days of its coverage.
That benefited the league and its teams, as well as the schools from which the new professional players were drafted. College social accounts, which put extra effort in creating content for this year’s draft to compensate for lack of live sports, piggybacked off the success of the draft and their players.
For those schools, the strategy leading up to the big night was to push out content that would not only celebrate their draftees after their selection but also highlight their abilities beforehand. The two-pronged approach took them through the three-day draft.
Fourteen LSU players were drafted last week- an SEC record and the most of any school this year. Five of those players went in the first round, including top pick Joe Burrow. Given the team’s on-field success last season, much of that was anticipated, which gave the LSU social crew valuable time to prepare meaningful content in the weeks leading up.
That time and the effort put in paid off.
“The draft was obviously unprecedented for a variety of reasons,” LSU associate director of creative and digital content Brandon Berrio said. “Our draft work has been full-blown for a couple of weeks now with player highlights and interview series [but] everything came to a head on Thursday.”
LSU created content ranging from a good luck video from players’ families, which generated more than 85,000 views on Twitter alone, to a hype video narrated by celebrity chef Emeril Lagassé and featuring music from Coldplay, in addition to pick announcements and forward-focused NFL content for each draftee. The biggest project was a tribute to Burow, which raked in more than 1.5 million views across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The video, narrated by 2007 No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, blew up on social media.
“It was as good as any content I saw all weekend – NFL, colleges, networks,” Berrio said. “It looks to be one of the most engaged posts on Twitter from Thursday night. The transitions [we] did with the LSU and Cincinnati jersey was incredible, and my favorite had to be the change of the national championship trophy with the Lombardi.”
While a Lombardi trophy might be a bit ambitious for Burrow and the Bengals right now, it’s symbolic of the success LSU fans hope their star has as a professional and mirrors the success of the school’s football and social media teams found during his tenure in Baton Rouge.
The NFL’s college social media team also worked to “amplify most of our content which helped reach another audience,” Berrio added, which provided a big boost. The NFL’s team also sent the universities content from the draft for their own use, making it easier for them to create draft-night content on the fly as well.
Ohio State followed LSU with ten picks, three of whom were selected in the first round, but they beat the Tigers when it came to social performance during the draft. The Buckeyes’ 1.6 social media interactions were the most in the nation across all platforms over the three days of the draft, according to digital strategy firm SkullSparks,-just ahead of LSU’s 1.39 million. Both were hundreds of thousands ahead of the next in line, Alabama and Clemson, in the 800’s range.
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Ohio State’s social team flooded every popular platform with the Buckeyes’ success and reaped the benefits. They created features, worked with players to obtain behind-the-scenes draft night footage, prepared scrapbook-style graphics for Instagram, and personalized highlight videos with new team branding for every player drafted.
“It was a long, busy weekend but went great for us,” Zach Swartz, Ohio State football director of creative media, said. “We had a lot of tireless, hard-working people on our football creative staff as well as the athletic department digital media team working late nights to put out a lot of quality content.”
Kyle Coulter, TCU football’s director of new and creative media, echoed the effort that went into this year’s digital coverage of the draft at the college level – and that it was worth it.
TCU’s Instagram account had the highest percentage of growth of any Power 5 team over the last week at 1.21%. Oklahoma trails them at 0.97%. The success extended beyond a single platform as well. During the draft and the weekend after, the school’s Twitter and Instagram accounts had over 4.2 million combined impressions.
“It certainly was a long few days, but overall I’d say everything went really well,” Coulter added. A pair of TCU products were selected in the first round on Thursday. “Outside of the initial announcement graphics, we had a few pieces of content that performed very, very well.”
The pieces that particularly resonated with Frog fans and those of their draftees’ new NFL teams and overperformed were short video clips that Coulter says “showcased the player’s personality or skill.”
And most of what performed best for each of the schools was content that had been planned in the week’s prior. The announcement graphics fell short of the success of the team’s original and creative content found in the virtual environment.
“It was a long three days of the actual draft, but the work for weeks before set us up for success for the draft,” Berrio said.