There was a time in the distant past when Baltimore’s Mel Kiper and Chris Berman of ESPN were the only two men on the face of the earth who thought that football fans would enjoy watching the NFL Draft on television.
Perhaps a very young Mel, maybe at some point during a study period at Calvert Hall, had an inkling of the Draft possibilities that have become a reality some thirty years later. Almost single-handedly, Mel and Chris succeeded in building an industry out of the NFL’s annual selection of college talent.
The two “draftniks” had to overcome a great deal of skepticism, particularly among NFL management, to start the Draft on the road to what it is today, but they eventually succeeded. On May 8-10, 2014, we will witness another demonstration of this phenomenal success.
At some point very early in their quest, Mel and Chris must have asked the questions that have started many a great enterprise: What if? – Why not? – Suppose; Imagine!
NFLFEST: A National Football Convention
Around this time of year, about half way between the Super Bowl and the beginning of the start of camps, football fans begin to yearn for some action! True, we have RSR to keep us informed of all the off-season drama, but, physically, we can’t tailgate and attend any games or even practices for another three months.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the NFL offered its fans a National Football Convention around this time of year, perhaps in conjunction with the draft?
The convention industry is big business in the United States. Heck, if Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock can make millions hosting Star Trek conventions for 40 years since the original television show ceased production, than there may be something to this industry!
Maybe the NFL is missing out on a potentially lucrative revenue stream. More likely, the NFL is more concerned about revenue opportunities which generate billions, not millions, in profits. And the big profits come from providing content that generates clicks on a computer, eyeballs on a TV screen and ears tuned to a radio station.
Wrapping a national football convention around the Draft might generate the kind of revenue to interest the marketing professionals in the NFL. Particularly if the NFL could extend the draft in conjunction with its national convention, it may find a way to develop an untapped revenue stream by selling more hours of football to the TV, radio and computer industries starved for football related content.
The NFL might also discover that a national football convention could be a very profitable platform in its own right as a vehicle for introducing new stars and products.
Imagine the possibilities!
First Round in New York
By holding the first round only in the Big Apple, the NFL could continue its love affair with New York and emphasize to an even greater extent its introduction of its newest star players. Separating the Draft’s first and second round over a week in May would have the effect of almost creating two first rounds, thus generating additional revenue if both rounds are held in prime time. But the intrigue and marketing opportunities generated by giving the first round its own pedestal should carry over into the excitement of NFLFest, the league’s national football convention.
The National Football Convention
Imagine for a moment what a national football convention might be like for the fans.
After an admirable marketing campaign by the city and the Ravens, the City of Baltimore is selected as the initial host of NFLFest.
Baltimore and the NFL really roll out the red carpet, selling over 500 booths in three large convention centers downtown. The convention runs from Thursday through Saturday, one week following the first round, which was held in New York the previous Thursday evening. The first annual National Football Convention is held in conjunction with the remainder of the draft on Thursday night (2nd round), Friday night (3rd and 4th round) and Saturday (5th – 7th rounds).
One convention center in downtown Baltimore, the “Draft Hall,” will host the 2nd thru 7th round of the draft, housed within an enclosed, glass auditorium, encircled with a walkway for walk-around viewing by football patrons. Large screens broadcasting the draft and other convention events have been strategically placed throughout all three halls.
Also in the “Draft Hall” are 32 booths housing every NFL team. Each team’s booth contains uniforms, photographs and other team products, as well as fan desks for distribution of player, cheerleader and mascot photos and autographs and other paraphernalia.
Another convention hall contains representatives of all of the NFL “partner” industries. All the big players in the apparel industry are present along with many other would be sponsors of NFL sportswear hoping to generate buzz and sales. The videogame industry is well represented also, with leading game producers vying for prime space in the Hall.
In fact, almost all sponsors of NFL products are present in a big way as this convention is seen by many as the start of the product marketing season as well as the kick-off of the football year. Of particular interest to the NFL are new developments in equipment safety displayed in the equipment section of the “NFL business partner” hall.
The third hall is divided between “radio row” and other media outlets here to cover the draft and the convention and the memorabilia floor, which houses over 100 booths containing sponsors of NFL memorabilia. The media section is restricted to media and football stars but fans can view the activities from the remainder of the hall.
Introducing the League’s New and Old Stars
The NFL has left no stone unturned in providing access to both convention sponsors and its newest stars, those college players selected in the first round. Dozens of made for TV events have been prepared by the league for media outlets.
Player interviews, introduction of new products, photo opportunities of the new draftees and the most recent class of Hall of Famers have been arranged for the hundreds of media outlets present. The Hall of Fame even has a booth to market its business; HOF staff has transported some exciting new memorabilia for patron viewing.
On “opening day,” Thursday afternoon, the NFL has sponsored a presentation of the new first round draftees at 1pm and the new Hall of Fame selectees at 3pm. It was hard to say who enjoyed these presentations more, the fans, the players or the media.
Later, in the Commissioner’s state of the league presentation, he announced that the success of the National Football Convention in Baltimore had overwhelmingly demonstrated its popularity with NFL fans. The Commissioner announced that going forward a National Football Convention site would be chosen from among those cities which had never hosted a Super Bowl.
The league even has plans to coordinate with Major League Baseball for the sale of baseball game packages during next year’s convention. Other plans for the National Football Convention, including coaching seminars, are in the works!
As always with any successful enterprise, investment funding and hard work are essential and “the devil is in the details” but it is fun to…
Imagine the possibility of a National Football Convention.
Submitted by guest blogger Rob Ward