NFL Draft And Social Brand Performance
Last spring we entered into an NFL Draft like no other, not knowing what to expect. We were without live sports anywhere, and Commissioner Roger Goodell was doing the picks live from his basement. The result may not have been the most compelling live television, but it captured the attention of both passionate and casual fans who just needed a sports fix. Since then, the NFL returned, mostly without fans, and played its way almost uninterrupted to the Super Bowl. The sports world has continued to find a path to at least partial normalcy in terms of sports engagement and consumption. Last week fans experienced a different version of the NFL Draft, one that was hosted outdoors on Lake Erie in Cleveland with thousands watching live in a hybrid format, with some draftees in attendance and others joining from around the country via live video. The experience was again another step in a reimagined way to engage, showing that a remote event has evolved while knowing that nothing can beat being there.
One thing that is important to remember is how brand engagement happened again this year. While there were thousands of fans in Cleveland and the NFL reported that a record number of brands, over 35, were executing some form of activation around the Draft, almost, if not all of those activations were either remote or in the digital space. There were no massive Draft parties on the streets in Cleveland or music events with thousands of attendees. No intimate setting for season ticket holders to embrace the pick, literally. We are still in an era of caution, and that drove brands, both traditional and new, to the party to push the digital space for ROI, recognition and engagement.
What we saw was that even with a slow return to a combination of live fans in Cleveland the value of social engagement stayed vital and brought the best ROI for anyone associated with this year’s Draft. The amount of tagged and posted content only increased by 0.7% when compared to last year’s fully virtual event. That showed us a key lesson learned by teams and their partners, social engagement remains essential in this hybrid sports landscape.
While we have concentrated on the brand success the NFL Draft brought, let’s not forget the big advancements the teams themselves made across all platforms with their content. The Cowboys, with 405 draft specific posts across measured categories, won the week with an overall post value of $4.7 million. Followed by the Patriots, who took a less is more approach with 248 posts and just over $4 million in post value. Eight teams saw their social posts eclipse $2 million in value, with the Panthers (501 total posts) being the most active of any team on social during the Draft.
The big winners were not the disruptive teams one might expect. The Jaguars, with top pick Trevor Lawrence, were actually near the bottom in engagement. So much of their exposure came both before and then in those first few minutes as the former Clemson star assumed the virtual stage to get the draft started.
The real numbers came from the biggest markets, especially in a year when the most populous cities held spots early in the Draft, a combination of big names and big interest. The Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots all pulled large numbers for engagement, and what category led the way? Beer.
MillerCoors, working with both the Cowboys and Bears, used Instagram to score some of the best brand value of the Draft, with their Cowboys posts totalling $590,692. Couple the Cowboys success with the Bears, whose posts garnered the fourth most exposure, $200,611, and that’s some solid engagement under the Miller Lite banner.
Also not to be overlooked is the New England Patriots, who rode Anheuser Busch and Bud Light to Draft exposure success, using their 248 posts to a brand value of just over $129,668.