The NFL Draft – Through a SMBA Student’s Lens

Over the past few years the NFL has done a spectacular job at turning the NFL draft into a highly anticipated event. Full of media coverage and fandom, the Draft has expanded fan’s interest of the NFL deeply into the off-season. Although I have not personally watched the draft consistently over the years (they list all the picks on Monday which takes about 5 minutes to read), I flipped on the TV this year to watch from a different perspective. As I watched day three of the NFL Draft this morning, I approached it with a SDSU SMBA student’s lens.  With this in mind, two things caught my eye this morning in Round 4 of the Draft:

 

  1. Team Draft Pick Announcements

Everyone knows about the process of a first or second round pick. The NFL Commissioner walks out, after that catchy chime, and announces the team pick. Then a young draftee smiles, hugs and kisses his mom, shakes hands with his entourage and walks out onstage to get the famous (or infamous) hug with Roger Goodell. This is the case unless you’re so big that you host your own party at home (Jameis Winston) or you’re selected higher than anticipated and didn’t get an invite to the draft. That process is established, engrained in all fans minds. What caught my eye this morning was the way teams announced their fourth round pick. The ESPN anchor shifted the attention to an offsite location selected by the team for the announcement. Most teams chose to hold this announcement event at their practice facility or stadium (possibilities are endless). Then, the team representative stepped to the mic and did something brilliant: they introduced a loyal season ticket holder to announce the team’s pick. Lightbulb! That’s one way to encourage fan loyalty and engagement. Reward those fans who are your best customers and keep them coming back! They have now taken an event at one location (Chicago), and created 32 additional events, one for each team at their selected location. This was a brilliant move and I’ll be keeping a close eye to see how this grows in the future.

 

  1. Launching Youth Participation

It’s no secret that the NFL faces a huge obstacle in diminishing youth participation. They have been combating the concussion discussion for years and it is making an impact on youth participation numbers. Most people are familiar with the NFL’s “Heads Up” campaign and the flag football leagues that are taking off. The next NFL campaign is here. I saw this commercial while watching the draft:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VBtle-PopA

 

The commercial directs you to playfootball.com which directs you to a special USA Football website. To be more precise, these programs and commercials are from USA Football, but there are obvious connections between USA Football and the NFL The compelling commercial is the next step in drawing back the youth to playing football. Only time will tell if the strategy will play off, but clearly people in power are recognizing and combating one of the biggest threats to the game.

 

Engagement of fans, particularly the youth, is a huge task for the NFL and teams in their quest for growth. So naturally, with the two themes discussed above, why not combine them? It looks like one team did (intentionally or not). The Jets invited a 30-year season ticket holder to announce their pick, and he brought his son, powerful stuff for the father and son duo. So, why not do this with every team? There may be a great opportunity to leverage the draft as a way to engage youth fans and create a fan experience they will never forget. All this without even playing a game…