(The NFLPA is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
A shared interest and priority for most professional athletes is giving back to their community and to the world of youth sports. The NFL Players Association makes this a priority as well.
In 2019, the NFLPA assisted 208 different NFL players in the planning and execution of day camps that served over 61,000 kids across three different countries. Because of this, notable players like Malcolm Jenkins, Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins, and others had more than football skills to offer camp attendees.
“Partnering with the NFLPA is a value add that helps make our offerings, and therefore overall camp experience, more robust for the youth who participate,” says Jenkins, a Philadelphia Eagles safety and founder of the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation. “More than teaching football fundamentals, our camps are also focused on educating youth on the importance of a healthy balanced lifestyle, physically and mentally; and support from the NFLPA and its partners goes a long way in helping us reach our goals in those areas.”
Leveraging NFLPA resources for the camps is a growing trend amongst NFL players. Support for player camps include products that support the needs of nutrition, hydration and training; promotion through NFLPA digital and social channels, video and content opportunities via ACE Media, the NFLPA’s production and content arm, and NFLPA volunteers. This year, 163 of the 208 unique active players utilized the player camp program resources for the first time.
This year’s camp initiative also included two cornerstone events, a kickoff program hosted in Washington, D.C. and an end of summer wrap event in Baltimore, MD. The kickoff event was hosted in collaboration with the office of the Mayor of Washington, D.C. and featured multiple active and former Redskins players. The end of summer wrap event was led by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in partnership with the Baltimore City Mayor’s office and the Department of Parks and Recreation. The camp also featured other active players from the Baltimore area and engaged former players. The NFL’s Play Football Youth initiative supported both NFLPA events by supplying Play Football t-shirts featuring local team branding to distribute to the kids.
The NFLPA’s partners also play an active part in this initiative. Partner engagement for the 2019 camp season doubled from 2018. Many, like KIND Snacks, Build-A-Head, and EA Sports often will send product to the camps as giveaway items for the children participating. For many of these partners, this helps them accomplish the goal of growing their brand awareness as well as their philanthropic footprint. It also adds to the campers’ overall experience.
“Build-A-Head is passionate about contributing to help build a sense of community,” says Audrey Wood, Marketing Manager for Build-A-Head, which sent 250 cutouts of each players’ face to the camps. “These kids are the future and in today’s digital world, it’s really important to get them outside and active. Our product is super fun for those of all ages, they are a great way to build awareness to the player’s foundations and the kids usually use them for autographs from the professional athletes. For Build-A-Head this partnership allows us to not only raise awareness of our product, but also engage local communities. Any way we can make a positive impact is important to us.”
Jeff Aitken, Senior Field Marketing Manager at KIND Snacks, expresses similar satisfaction with his brand’s involvement in the initiative for the past two years. The camps present a great opportunity for KIND to provide young athletes with samples of their product as a sort of parting gift.
“Our mission is to make the world a little kinder. Getting a healthy, nutritious snack in the hands of some kids who might not have had the chance is a great way to do that,” he says. “Additionally, the best thing for us as a field marketing organization is to be able to pass the snack out and then have a conversation with the kids or their parents about how there are healthier options in the snack aisle.”
Several of the players who host camps also take the opportunity to focus on more than football with job training or vocational skills training for parents spending the day at camps. At Jenkins’ Next Level Youth Football camp, for example, parents have the opportunity to take a financial literacy course. Other camps offer services like blood pressure and cancer screenings.
“Many of the players hosting are also really teaching kids more life skills and things outside of the game of football, such as character building and college resume workshops and things along those lines,” says Brandon Putnam, Player Marketing Manager for the NFLPA. “These players realize that they are in a very privileged or very unique position to achieve the success that they have to date.”
With the camp initiative, the NFLPA and its member players demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the sport as well as the communities that enjoy it. More than that, this commitment comes not from the desire to accomplish a business goal, but from genuine care for improving the lives of others.
“Nothing takes the place of passion. So many times guys get painted with the broad brush and these camps allow a platform where players can create their own narrative,” says Dexter Santos, Vice President of Player Services at the NFLPA. “From here, how do we enhance this? How do we get more communities involved? Can we make this initiative to where the community can take advantage of it? It’s a much bigger idea than just a football game.”
For more information on NFLPA supported player camps, click here.