I must talk about the NFL Draft too much.

Yes, I went to Vegas last week to enjoy the Draft. Yes, I last attended it in 2019, as we staged SponsorshipX alongside the event in Nashville. But, no, I have never been to the NFL Draft at any other time than those two years.

Yet so many people commented to me that I go every year. Nope. Although I plan to go in 2023 to Kansas City, and not just because it is fun, but because I think the Draft provides an excellent lesson for marketers of all types – tourism, media, brand, property, athlete and celebrity. I want to share three thoughts that come to mind from my trip last week.

  1. We can all learn from Vegas Baby. It is incredible how Las Vegas is transitioning from being the capital of the unspoken escape to the sports entertainment capital. Vegas is taking its approach to attracting pro teams, new venues, and now significant events. It is filling gaps in its tourism calendar, leveraging residencies by stars such as John Legend, and expanding the footprint of the strip to new venues such as the Caesars Forum. Throw the hunger for the legalization of sports betting on top, and you can see how the Vegas approach to sports is consistent with its brand and a world apart from a classic sports town such as Chicago.
  2. The Crossover isn’t just a basketball move. I was fortunate to be invited to the NFLPA Pitch Day, where entrepreneurs pitch the union to receive marketing and business support. The judges for the event ranged from Marshall Lunch to WNBA star Tamera Young and 1863 Ventures founder Melissa Bradley. Sponsored by Truist bank, the winner and all finalists receive business consulting support. The grand prize winner was Healium, a startup founded by Sarah Hill. Healium is a new approach to mental wellness that helps you self-manage without medication.
  3. Surprise and annoyance are as exciting as surprise and delight. People love sports because of the absence of a scripted outcome, the result being the performance of players and coaches, shaped by officials, weather, and luck. The Draft is highly unscripted, despite every team entering armed with months and years of player evaluations. But their plans are intertwined with all of the other franchises. Each decision-maker has ten minutes to make their selection after the previous team’s choice, some of which will generate celebrations and others a heap of aggravation. But both generate an ongoing response from their fans and months’ worth of media debate. Brands like to surprise and delight; maybe they should ponder how they can rile up their devotees!

Dissecting the success of other properties is a recommended practice for any sports league, entertainment property, or even a charity event in building an off-season marketing moment like non-other. Do you have a tentpole activity that four months before the season begins creates headline news, electrifies a city, engages its fan base, and collaborates with every business partner? Could your brand benefit from conducting a pre-launch, much like the sales campaign for condo development with ‘Fall 2022 Occupancy’ messaging?

The recipe is right there for the leveraging even though it might take your property time to get there. Even the NFL didn’t expect TV audiences to come when it started broadcasting nationally on ESPN in 1980. The current event format only came about in 2015 after the league turned it into a travelling property. But every property has the elements:

– Future stars and celebrities
– Passionate fan bases
– Activation-starved partners
– Hospitality industry supporters
– News hungry media

Of course, the scale of the NFL may be quite different than yours but think of yourself as the local establishment borrowing secrets from a multinational. It is time for you to do the same.