- More than 100 brands are advertising during ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network's broadcast of the NFL draft that airs tonight through Saturday. Sixty of those brands are first-time sponsors, per an announcement that ABC and ESPN's parent company Disney shared with Marketing Dive.
- This year's advertisers include Lowe's, which is the presenting sponsor of the ESPN and NFL Network telecast. Bud Light Seltzer, Pizza Hut and Verizon also are sponsoring key moments during the telecasts.
- The draft broadcasts will see a double-digit lift in revenue from a year earlier amid growth in the computer, insurance, gardening and media categories, per Disney. The draft, which kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. EDT, will be held virtually this year after the NFL canceled plans to host it in Las Vegas due to the coronavirus pandemic. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce draft picks from his home.
The NFL draft's strong sponsorship support indicates that marketers are interested in sports content even as the coronavirus pandemic led organizations like the NBA, NHL and NASCAR to suspend operations, while the Olympics are postponed until next year. Those suspensions and slumping economy have led advertisers to withdraw sponsorships, making the NFL draft a key test of the future of sports marketing.
Lowe's is the most prominent sponsor of this year's draft as the home improvement chain prepares for the summer gardening and home renovation season. The company will debut TV commercials on ESPN during the draft that showcase how its operations have changed since the pandemic closed some of its operations. Three of the spots highlight the efforts of its 300,000 employees at 2,200 stores, which have remained open during the health crisis as essential businesses, CNBC reported. All the commercials have the tagline, "Home Is What Unites Us," a message for consumers who are stuck indoors during lockdowns.
This year's virtual draft is one of the earliest public signs of how the pandemic has led the NFL to adjust its operations. The league's regular season is scheduled to start on Sept. 10, giving the league and sponsors another five months to prepare for the possibility of further disruptions that might have a profound effect on marketers. Still, TV ratings for the draft are likely to be strong, given that millions of people have increased their media consumption while staying at home.
The NFL is incredibly important to advertisers and media outlets, considering its unmatched ability to attract a mass audience. The league's TV ratings last year rose for a second straight season with a 5% lift to an average of 16.5 million viewers a game, while 47 of the top 50 telecasts were NFL games, per data cited by CNBC. The higher viewership helped the NFL generate a record $1.47 billion in sponsorship revenue, according to consulting firm IEG, while the Super Bowl was estimated to capture $435 million in ad spending, Kantar estimates. Surpassing those records this year may be more difficult, and will partly depend on how strong the U.S. economy recovers as lockdowns end.