How Panini Delivers Real-Time Content to Draftees on Draft Day

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For the third year in a row, Panini has worked with opendorse to execute the campaign. (Photo via Panini)

Ever wonder how NFL Draft picks are able to share their rookie cards almost instantly on social media after they are drafted? No, it’s not magic, but it almost could be.

Rookies being able to capitalize on all eyes being on their social channels upon being drafted is the result of a partnership between Panini and Lincoln-based athlete-marketing platform opendorse.

The 2018 NFL Draft marked the third year of the partnership between the two parties, one that has grown in scope every year.

“Early on, we really understood how opendorse could help us better leverage the athletes that we work with to create more cohesive social campaigns to drive our brand,” said Jason Howarth, Vice President of Marketing for Panini. “We had some key learnings and that has allowed us to capitalize on key moments that drive our category like that moment when an athlete sees there dream become a reality whether that is with the NFL or NBA Draft for example.”

Having the ability for not only the players, but the marketers to execute a campaign in what amounts to as close as real-time as possible has allowed both parties to take advantage of the hype and attention surrounding the Draft.

“One of the most important aspects to a successful social media campaign is timing – especially in sports,” said Adi Kunalic, President of opendorse. “When audiences are glued to their TVs watching a highly anticipated event – there’s a very likely chance they’re also checking their social media accounts to feel part of the conversation. This real-time aspect provides the perfect opportunity for brands to connect with a highly engaged audience.”

For a marketer like Panini, being a part of the conversation during one of the biggest moments in North American sports is invaluable.  

“Real-time moments like sports or entertainment events such as awards shows or key TV moments create real-time conversations on social where people are wanting to see or hear what other people are thinking about that event – it gives brands the opportunity to amplify around those moments in a very targeted and specific way and allows you to engage with an audience in a meaningful way,” elucidated Howarth.

When it comes to putting a value on the success of a campaign like this, Howarth and his team at Panini take a more holistic approach to measuring ROI than just looking for a pure incremental increase in sales.

“I think too often you can get locked into ROI equals conversion, but you have to look at it holistically. Yes, we love when campaigns deliver sales, they should – but we miss it if that’s all we are looking at and we aren’t considering – what was the total engagement? How did we amplify our presence and raise visibility for the brand? What was our share of voice surrounding those moments compared to other brands? And lastly was our effort authentic – did it cheapen the moment, the athlete or our brand? We don’t ever want the scenario to be – it didn’t feel authentic.”

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It’s this type of authentic approach that drew opendorse to Panini in the first place. As Kunalic outlines, having a partnership based on authenticity is a win for everyone involved.

“At the core, Panini shares a similar vision for athletes as we do. Panini celebrates the athlete through their product. opendorse champions the athlete through social media. Combined we both want to help athletes continue to build their brands – whether that’s through really cool trading cards or their social media channels. I believe it’s those shared values that have brought us together and will continue to drive our partnership moving forward.”

Panini not only leverages the moment to drive sales and awareness, but to showcase their “Panini Instant platform”, one of the brands newest evolutions and the one that plays to the immediacy that consumers crave.

“Panini Instant is a print on demand/to order platform so once that window has closed for the card we don’t ever make the card again,” mentioned Howarth. “Usually that window is for 24 hours only, but around key events and moments we make them available for a longer period of time. The limited window also creates another level of scarcity for the card because it’s only available for a specified time.”

All in all, 20 NFL players posted through opendorse (3 rookies, 17 vets). Outside of the 3 rookies that used opendorse, another 16 draft picks posted their #PaniniInstant cards, bringing the total to 19. Thanks to the likes of Saquon Barkley, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Panini secured a 44% share of voice (SOV) during the first round of the Draft, 13% higher than the nearest competitor.

For the players in attendance, Howarth and the Panini team were backstage to make sure the content the captured was as close to real-time as possible.

“We were backstage working with the Draft guys that were in attendance,” mentioned Howarth. “We also made sure we had key guys like Mayfield and Rudolph onboarded to opendorse before the Draft since they weren’t present. Bradley Chubb and our Panini exclusive athlete Saquon Barkley were also on the platform so they would post immediately after being selected.”