The 2020 NFL Draft has presented brands and athletes with a unique challenge – find a way to break through during its all-virtual presentation.
Compounding that is NFL restrictions that are limiting draftees to the products they can be featured wearing or showcasing during the live camera shots at their homes. That has led more brands to try to find unique social or digital activations.
NoSweat Co., which produces absorbent hat liners that prevent sweat from dripping down an athlete’s face, is one such company.
NoSweat recently partnered with Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons on “I’m Not Sweating It,” a TikTok-specific campaign. The deal consists of two TikTok videos – one that was released two weeks prior to the draft and the last coming during draft week.
On paper, Simmons provides the name-brand recognition that could bring engagement and followers to NoSweat’s social media presence. Since joining TikTok in early January, the 21-year-old – who is expected to be picked in the top 10 – has already accumulated more than 40,300 followers and nearly 156,000 likes. After launching on March 17, NoSweat has only 21 followers and 164 likes on the ByteDance-owned platform.
“I’m looking at someone like Isaiah and doing things differently and building up our personal TikTok and also going with its virality and that there’s more eyeballs,” Patrick Hayes, NoSweat Co. director of marketing said. “Looking around at the different brands that are activating right now, it’s interesting – I haven’t come across a whole lot on the TikTok platform. It’s really cool to be one of the first brands athletes to really activate in a new space like that.”
The first video in the partnership recreated the moment that a player gets drafted. Before they shake hands with Roger Goodell, they are handed the hat of their new team.
With the CBS Sports soundtrack playing in the background, Simmons tries on two hats, but is disappointed by them and tosses them aside. On the third try, he then puts on his NoSweat-branded hat, with the company name hovering above his head and the caption, “This video may be an advertisement,” displayed on the bottom of the video.
Hayes declined to comment on the financial details behind the NoSweat-Simmons partnership, other than that NoSweat paid the Clemson star for the opportunity.
While sports brands monetizing on TikTok is still in its infancy – and only recently accomplished by the Chicago Bulls – Hayes saw growth potential on the platform. While watching the growing number of TikTok celebrities and influencers, it made him want to do the same for NoSweat.
NoSweat has brand ambassador relationships with professional athletes including Dallas Keuchel (Houston Astros), TJ Oshie (Washington Capitals) and Golden Tate (New York Giants) – but those relationships never extended into TikTok.
However, the campaign has struggled to gain visibility thus far, perhaps showing the difficulty of these unique athlete-brand collaborations as well as the challenge of going viral on TikTok.
Released on April 10, the branded video has struggled to gain traction on Simmons’ profile. As of April 23, the clip has accumulated more than 12,700 likes and 77,400 views – well below his average likes and views per post of roughly 31,159 and 212,220 respectively.
After reposting Simmons’ video onto their TikTok profile, NoSweat has garnered approximately nine likes and 114 views. The company’s average likes and views per post is 13 and 236, respectively.
Simmons and his team did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the player’s relationship with NoSweat.
“You put a lot in the players’ hands that are learning and new to these things, so it’s teaching moments,” Hayes said. “I don’t think I’d go back and change anything. It’s just allowing the time and the education when everyone’s away from home and getting creative and not in front of their desk or whatnot. A lot of coordinating, a lot of conversations that could have been a little bit more streamlined, had everyone been in an office setting and going about their daily lives like normal again.”
Mathew Micheli, co-founder and managing partner of media marketing agency Viral Nation, Inc., said that when it comes to monetizing on TikTok, what will be posted has to align with the interests of the intended audience. That is why the Chicago Bulls were able to find success on their branded content series with Chicago-based bank BMO Harris.
“Content for specific platforms and specific initiatives has to match the audience that you’re going for,” Micheli told Front Office Sports in late February. “As time progresses, we’ll be looking at how well these teams utilize TikTok for the content that does well: the challenges, the dances, utilizing music. That will be important to see how successful TikTok is over the long haul with regard to monetization.”
With the second video expected to drop during NFL Draft Week, Hayes has already seen ways NoSweat can improve on TikTok. Drake’s #ToosieSlide hashtag hit a billion views in just two days, making it the fastest music trend to reach the ten-figure million mark on the platform.
Watching Drake create songs specifically for TikTok has Hayes wondering if NoSweat could embrace this growing trend among musicians.
“You see a lot more of the music space play a bigger factor, and I think that’s why you see more of the viral videos that obviously start with the song,” he said. “Not that every video has to incorporate a dance and I think it has to make sense – but as far as what we saw on the music choice selection, that definitely helps with a further reach and bigger engagement.”