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Diving Deep: How Teams And Brands Showed Up To This Year's Draft

NFL Draft And Social Brand Performance

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Social Media
Sponsorship Valuation
May 12, 2021
June 29, 2022
 min read

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.

The Changes From 2020  

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.  

The Overall Social Winners

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.

Winning The Draft, Big Markets

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.

New Brand Faces Emerge To Spur Growth

If we wanted to give a “Most Improved'' social engagement award we would look to another NFC East rebuilding project with a loyal fan base, Philadelphia. The Eagles found not just one but two partners whose exposure on the social side ended up in the top ten of brand value. Dietz & Watson, a brand not usually seen on the social engagement side, rode The Birds picks to the second-highest engagement numbers during the three days, using 76 posts for a total value of $325,222. Last year the Eagles only posted with text mentions of the brand. This year they added 26 posts with Dietz & Watson's logo creating $114,303 in brand value. They also increased the number of posts with text mentions by 72% which drove $210,919 in value. The Eagles also had Lifebrand, a social media protection company and Draft newcomer, join them in the digital space. Their numbers, 23 posts with a brand value of $161,832 showed that the fire for “Iggles” football is still burning bright. Even more impressive was that the Eagles grew their partner’s value from 2020 almost 3x by embracing more social engagement with two brands that were creative and aggressive in inserting themselves into the Draft narrative.

What’s Next

While this year’s hybrid Draft is now in the books, the numbers bode well for lessons learned and the future of engagement with the NFL Draft as it shifts to other locations. Factor in large scale onsite entertainment, a red carpet and all those best practices learned from the past two “non-traditional” years of drafting, 2022 could shape up to be even bigger, bolder and more engaged than any previous Draft. All those aspects bode well for the NFL, its fans and its future, with a successful and very unique event done, and a season of engagement on the horizon.

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