Whether you’re a fan of football or you’re not it’s impossible to go anywhere in Chicago this week without running into the NFL Draft. Team banners can be found on every street lamp, draftees adorn the CTA ads and the streets are filled with swarms of grown men wearing identical jerseys. Grant Park has been taken over by the most powerful entity in American culture. The NFL is so powerful it isn’t beholden to many of the same needs that other sports and entertainment entities rely on. The National Football League doesn’t need the city of Chicago, it doesn’t need traditional sponsors, it doesn’t even need traditional media. But Chicago, sponsors and media need the NFL.
OMAHA! OMAHA! OMAHA! LET’S MOVE THE DRAFT TO OMAHA!
Up until 2015 the NFL Draft had been held in New York City. Emanating from Radio City Music Hall the draft was grew in viewership and attendance every year since its initial broadcast in 1980. Following the 2014 Draft the NFL decided to take the show on the road and brought it to Chicago. Not everyone in town was a fan of the new guests. With an estimated cost of $4 million to the city for marketing and infrastructure support the draft wasn’t initially welcomed with open arms. That didn’t even include waived Grant Park rental fee of $900,000 per day. But the stats on 2015’s Draft show the investment returned an excellent ROI for the city. 200,000 visitors attended some Draft related event in Grant Park alone. Half of the Draft’s attendees were from outside the city, generating 31,000 hotel nights and $456,000 in city hotel tax revenue. With the Draft comes wall-to-wall TV coverage of which Chicago was firmly placed front and center. ESPN and the NFL Network cover the event non-stop and once the coverage from other major networks was taken into consideration, the city received TV and digital media coverage that is estimated at a value of $115 million. The city’s sports commission ultimately determined the value of the 2015 NFL Draft to be $86 million in direct economic impact. While the NFL may love Chicago you can bet there are dozens of other cities looking on with envy at those numbers. Cities eager to sweeten the pot for the league and lure the Draft away. The NFL doesn’t need the city of Chicago. Chicago needs the NFL.
The NFL doesn’t need your brand. Your brand needs the NFL.
Bundling up, going to a blustery game in late fall, ordering a smoked sausage and an Okinos greek yogurt is an American tradition. That may not be as cliché as it sounds but Okinos returns for the second year in a row to sponsor Draft Town in Grant Park. Hyundai also returns to sponsor Selection Square, the epicenter of the Draft and all of its broadcasts. Budweiser has been replaced by health food. Ford Trucks has been pushed aside for Hyundai. The wide range in sponsors speaks to the vast number of demographics the NFL reaches. Corporate sponsors are in no way deterred by the annual rise in NFL ads and are lining up to be a part of the Sunday fun. If the costs become too steep for a brand rest assured there are 20 in line prepared to take that spot. The NFL doesn’t need your brand. Your brand needs to sponsor the NFL.
NFL Network. Yahoo. Twitter. The NFL can take its broadcast anywhere and fans will follow.
The NFL isn’t just the most popular sport in America it’s also the most popular television show. 8 of the 10 highest rated broadcasts of 2015 were NFL games and Super Bowl broadcasts make up the seven most-watched U.S. broadcasts of all time. Football is a product made for television. Baseball and basketball can drag and there’s no set time or channel to find them. The NFL is quick, flashy, on every Sunday at the same time and over in 3 hours. The NFL knows that fans will follow them anywhere and they have been willing to put that to the test. The NFL first tested this theory by creating Thursday Night Football which launched on the NFL network in 2006. The NFL Network isn’t like CBS or even ESPN. It’s buried in deeeeeeeeeeep cable. It’s only available in 71 million households; even still, ratings were off the charts. So much so it prompted CBS to change their weekly programming to get in on the deal. Ultimately paying $300 mil for the rights to just 8 games in 2015.
In 2015 Yahoo was given exclusive rights to broadcast a game online. It was the first time a digital channel was given exclusive broadcast rights to a live sports event. The experiment was such a success it grew into an exclusive 10 game Thursday night streaming deal with Twitter for 2016. Facebook, Google, and Yahoo were all in negotiations for this service as well. The NFL knows that more and more people in America are leaving cable TV and becoming more comfortable streaming their entertainment online. Deep cable, broadcast TV, desktop and mobile streaming, no matter the platform the NFL’s fans will follow and bring their wallets. The NFL doesn’t need your network. Your network needs the NFL.
The only group in America the NFL is concerned with winning over are Moms.
There’s one group that the NFL desperately needs: Moms. The NFL knows that moms traditionally run households in America and that includes their children’s activities. If the NFL wants to continue to have a steady stream of young players feeding into their system then Moms need to feel comfortable sending their children on to the gridiron. Concerns over injuries and concussions have caused youth football programs to decline nearly 20% in participation over the last three years. The NFL is trying to soften their image with such campaigns as ‘Together We Make Football’, designed to show how football brings families together at all ages, youth, high school, college, and professional. Moms don’t need the NFL. The NFL needs moms.
If you’re heading to Grant Park for the festivities here’s all you need to know about street closings and happenings. Keep an eye on the sponsors, the fans, and the magnitude of it all. There’s literally nothing like it in the world.
- Michael Dennis, Digital Strategist & Content Creator