NFL Draft Parties Going Virtual In 2020

    • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL Draft will not be held in Las Vegas on April 23.
    • Teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers are instead bringing this week’s draft parties online to their numerous social media platforms.
    • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL Draft will not be held in Las Vegas on April 23.
    • Teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers are instead bringing this week’s draft parties online to their numerous social media platforms.

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Last year, the Los Angeles Chargers hosted one of the largest NFL Draft parties in league history. By Chief Marketing Officer Steve Ziff’s estimation, more than 30,000 people registered for the event – held at Santa Monica Pier – with as many as 16,000 fans in attendance to celebrate the moment that the Chargers selected Jerry Tillery with the 28th pick.

“That was a really good sign of the positive spirit of the fans here in LA and how accepting they’d been of our move up, and so we wanted to continue upon that,” Ziff said. “The registration data is really where we felt like, ‘wow, we were really surprised what appetite there was for Chargers’ content in the market here.’”

Under different circumstances this year, the Chargers are shifting that party online for the “Bolts Draft Room” Virtual Draft Experience. Streaming live on, YouTube, and Facebook Live and presented by Bud Light, the event lasts from 3:30 p.m. PT until Commissioner Roger Goodell officially kicks off the first round of the draft at 5:00 p.m. PT.

Given the unique, omnichannel aspect of the Chargers’ draft week coverage, they are bringing new and old media partners into the mix. The team recently announced a new broadcast partnership with CBS2 Los Angeles and renewed its existing partnership with iHeartMedia Los Angeles. 

Petros Papadakis and Matt’ Money’ Smith, the Chargers’ play-by-play announcer, will be co-hosting the virtual draft experience on their weekday show, The Petros and Money Show. 

Chargers reporters Hayley Elwood and Chris Hayre will cut in throughout the broadcast to provide fans with the latest draft news. The multiplatform party will also include giveaways, interviews with current and former Chargers legends, and sweepstakes with several prize options.

In a matter of days, Ziff has already seen registration numbers for the virtual party exceed five-figures. Those who enter automatically enroll in the Chargers sweepstakes, which include a video call with the team’s first-round pick and a signed football and hat from the 2020 draft class. They will also receive a new, customized Chargers jersey – which was unveiled on April 21 – along with two tickets to the Chargers’ first home game at SoFi Stadium this season.

“We’ve got a lot of ambitious dreams about the way that we want to bring a fun and energetic vibe to football fans in LA,” Ziff said. “We’re welcoming, we’re open, and we’re going to provide a lot of fun and lively content for people to grab onto.”

The Miami Dolphins’ virtual draft experience will see them lean heavily into their Facebook presence. On draft day, the team – and presenting partner Bud Light Seltzer – will be hosting its NFL Draft party in the Official Miami Dolphins Fans Group on Facebook. Members will have inside access to exclusive draft content, interviews with draft picks, Q&As with active players, and live video analysis from team analysts.

Both analyst John Congemi and co-host Kim Bokamper will be live-streaming from inside their respective homes and serve as the talking heads for the Dolphins’ Facebook group.

Within 24 hours of the Dolphins Facebook group going live, it gained more than 7,000 new members, and there has been at least 10,000 new additions in total since the draft party was announced. Altogether, the Facebook group now has nearly 37,000 members. 

In conjunction with Bud Light, the Dolphins will be rolling out a content series called “Bud Light Draft Stories.” The premise around it is having team alumni share their own draft stories across the team’s social media platforms, including Facebook.

“It’s just a fun way to really be there with the fans as we live through it together because of the fact that we can’t be doing it live,” Laura Sandall, the Dolphins’ vice president of marketing, said. “We, of course, had plans to do it live, but those are no longer around, so now this is a way to take it to the next level and hopefully even be able to hit more people then we would have been able to hit at our live event.”

Like the Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers see the value of bringing the virtual draft to Facebook users. On April 15, the team launched “Faithful to the Bay,” the official 49ers Facebook fan group. 

Already, the group has added nearly 2,600 new members – located in places like Mexico and Baltimore – and generated more than 960 posts. While this is not the first 49ers fan group to emerge on Facebook, it is the first team-official account, Meghan Ryan, the team’s director of digital and social marketing, said. 

The idea behind “Faithful to the Bay” came from “49ers Invasions,” which are scheduled the day before in the host city of a 49ers road game. When the 49ers took on the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, Ryan was particularly amazed at the number of San Francisco fans at the invasion that week. 

“Faithful to the Bay brings that concept to life on Facebook, and you see people sharing their photos and really just being excited to be a part of this community,” Ryan said. 

“Faithful to the Bay” will also be incorporated into the 49ers’ virtual draft party. On draft night, special guests E-40, DJ E-Rock, Fred Warner, Arik Armstead, Mike McGlinchey, and Kyle Juszczyk will be joining the experience across the team’s app and website as well as its Facebook and YouTube accounts. Fans can use the team website to submit questions for 49ers players to answers or song requests for the virtual party. 

After the draft, Ryan plans to keep “Faithful to the Bay” in the 49ers’ online strategy. There is the possibility of using the group to test out new content that the team is working on releasing across its other social media platforms. Although it might not be exclusive to just “Faithful to the Bay,” it promotes the organic conversation that she wants to see on it.

“People are really appreciative of [football], and they’re sharing a lot of their memories from being at the Super Bowl or wherever they are around the country,” Ryan said. “That’s been really fun, and we’re encouraged early on by this sense of community – I really feel like it’s one of their invasion parties in virtual format.”

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, their draft-week festivities will really kick off on April 24, the second day of the draft. The team had previously traded three draft-picks – including its 2020 first-round selection – to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins last September. 

Ryan Huzjak, the Steelers’ vice president of sales and marketing, has numerous fan engagement activities lined up during the weekend. The team website has a new homepage called “Steelers Draft Central,” a centralized hub for all Steelers-related draft information. 

The team is launching the Steelers Draft Challenge, where they can answer draft-related questions and make predictions for the chance to win a daily autographed item from the team. The grand prize is an autographed football from Donnie Shell, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

The Steelers will also be leaning on their Steelers Nation Unite social platforms to interact with their followers. One feature, “Pick The Pick,” encourages fans to upload a video of their thoughts on who the Steelers will be drafting this year for a chance at having it used in Steelers Draft Programming or across Steelers Nation United’s social media channels.

Huzjak and his team are also working on a fan-cave concept to engage with Steelers faithful watching the draft at home. For fans who have a favorite Steelers room in their home, they can share their “Steelers Fan Cave” with the team and have it featured on Steelers Nation Unite.

But for some Steelers fans, they will be unable to watch the draft due to the coronavirus pandemic. One other concept that the Steelers are working on is having followers submit on social media a healthcare or other frontline worker that they admire. While nothing has been confirmed yet, Huzjak wants to use it as an opportunity to remember those working during this challenging time.

“We’re really trying to recognize all those folks that are still on the front lines working during this pandemic and tie that to some of the draft coverage,” he said. “We’re taking our top draft picks to help our team, but we’ve got these folks out really dedicated and sacrificing to make sure that we can continue to operate and that they’re taking care of people.”