The shutdown of sports had made both TV networks and advertisers desperate for big live events. That’s boosting the bottom line of The Walt Disney Co., which has completely sold out of advertising on ESPN and ABC for coverage of rounds 1-3 of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23-24.
More than 100 companies have purchased ad time during Disney’s three days of live coverage on ESPN and ABC. Sixty brands are new to NFL Draft coverage, according to Jim Minnich, vice president of revenue and yield management, sports, for Disney Advertising Sales.
“We’ve seen, frankly, more demand than we have availability due to the pause in live sports,” Minnich said. “I think there’s a certain level of demand also because of the type of draft prospects that are in the NFL Draft this year.”
There are still a few ad slots left for ESPN/ABC coverage of Round 4-7 on Saturday, he added. Minnich declined to comment on ad prices except to say they’re “higher” than last year’s coverage from Nashville.
With live sports in suspended animation, Disney has seen double-digit revenue increases in ad categories such as computers, insurance, gardening and media, the company said in a press release Wednesday. That’s in addition to new categories like home workshop. Home improvement giant Lowe’s will serve as presenting sponsor of the joint ESPN and NFL Network telecast. Verizon will sponsor the “Prospect Cam,” while Pizza Hut sponsors the “Draft Moment” and Bud Light Seltzer backs the “Virtual Huddle.”
Other NFL sponsors, including sunglasses maker Oakley, are taking a pass on this year’s NFL Draft coverage and holding their money tight until conditions return to normal. Oakley also sponsors Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We had intentions of having an on-site presence at this year’s 2020 NFL Draft in Vegas, but due to the unprecedented times, we have shifted our plans to focus on the months leading up to the 2020 season,” said Justin Andrews, senior vice president of Oakley North America.
Media buyer Adam Schwartz of Horizon Media told Front Office Sports this week that the remaining 30-second spots in NFL Draft coverage are selling in the $250,000 range.