Having to shift away from live events around the draft, the NFL is aiming to leverage its network in the influencer and celebrity space to help support its digital and social efforts, especially in around its massive fundraising event.
Alongside the NFL Draft, the league will also hold the ‘Draft-A-Thon,’ a fundraising campaign for COVID-19 relief efforts.
While there will be an integration of the campaign into the linear coverage of the draft, the ‘Draft-A-Thon’ will have its own dedicated live stream that will run on NFL Social and digital platforms, as well as on Twitter, Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and Yahoo Sports. Clips from the stream will also be shared on Instagram.
“I think when it became clear that this draft going to take a very different look and feel, we started to think about, what is the best way for the NFL in this moment to continue to bring people together and unify in such an sensitive time?,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL senior vice president of social responsibility. ” We said let’s use this moment of time to give back, to raise the funds, to raise even more awareness, and to really use our, platform for good.”
Key to those fundraising efforts will be the integration of athletes, celebrities, and popular personalities, ranging from comedian Kevin Hart to musicians Quavo and Kane Brown to video game streamer Ninja.
“We’ve done a lot in the influencer space across four key verticals: gaming, music, fashion, and fitness,” NFL Senior Vice President of Social and Influencer Marketing Ian Trombetta said. “This allows us to have a great continuation of those kinds of relationships with a diverse group of folks.”
In recent years, the NFL has looked to influencer marketing to help deepen its reach with fans, especially those in younger demographics. The strategy has been a key tentpole of the strategy installed by NFL CMO Tim Ellis, who joined the league from Activision Blizzard in August 2018.
Trombetta said the league had “extensive plans” to integrate influencers into its activations and events in Last Vegas, which he said would have “built off what we started in Nashville [which hosted the 2019 draft] and taking it to another level.”
However, as those plans had to shift as the physical footprint of the draft was removed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL aimed to shift those efforts in a direction to benefit those most impacted by COVID-19.
The league’s fundraising efforts have already raised more than $76 million for relief efforts, a number that will likely skyrocket as the ‘Draft-A-Thon’ goes live across the three days of the draft.
Trombetta said that for the stream itself, the NFL would look to bring a variety of these influencers, former players, and even first responders like doctors and nurses into Zoom conference calls so they can all interact and share stories. It will be hosted by Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders.
“We’re excited to see what happens with the pairing of people around this event,” he said. “We view it as complementary to the draft itself – if you want up to minute info on what is going on in the draft, that will be the linear feed. Instead, this will be very casual and much more centered on the efforts going on in communities and around the globe.”
There will also be an integration of the ‘Draft-A-Thon’ into Snapchat, which will have a donate live function, as well as on TikTok, which Trombetta said the league has several surprises for during the draft.
Further boosting the league’s efforts to connect with fans on new platforms will be a drafted player playlist that the NFL will launch on Spotify – the first time it has done such a thing. Trombetta said the league is looking to lean more into direct streaming platforms with efforts like this.
The NFL is also collaborating with gaming organization FaZe Clan, the first time the league has had an official relationship with an esports organization. FaZe Clan will launch a limited-edition merchandise line, as well as host a live stream of the draft, which Trombetta said shows the league’s commitment to “esports and gaming culture overall.”
“Taking note of what is happening in society today, it took a bit of time to have an idea of what we were going to do,” Trombetta said. “But to be where we are now with this event is pretty phenomenal, and we think fans are not only going to enjoy it but will also be excited to give back.”