With big time names come big time endorsements. Even before a player is selected in the NFL draft, many brands reach out to athletes to sign with their company to endorse their product. Players are put in the spotlight well before the NFL draft. With all of the speculation on where a player will get drafted the more media presence they receive even months before the big day. Before teams sign players to big time contracts, brands lock in on those players and use their marketing power to represent companies.
Jadeveon Clowney | Houston Texans
The Texans took Clowney as the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. But before he his name was announced he already had a deal with Puma, evident by Clowney supporting his brand by wearing a Puma pin on his suit during draft day. Capitalizing on a big stage moment when guest-appearing on Jimmy Fallon, Clowney rocked his Puma gear for the world to see. Along with Puma, he also signed a deal with Wilson Sporting Goods and partnerships with Gillette and New Era.
Clowney’s Twitter followers jumped to almost 42,000 new followers since his first overall selection on draft day. Today, he has around 129,400 followers, and the Houston Texans have approximately 375,000 followers, an increase of nearly 7,000 followers since drafting Clowney.
Blake Bortles | Jacksonville Jaguars
Taken number three overall, Bortles answered the question of which quarterback will be the first taken. He signed with Nike before the draft, and then he took part in Tide’s Our Colors campaign on draft day by tweeting a picture of him holding up his jersey showing the colors of his new team.
— Blake Bortles (@BBortles5) May 9, 2014
Today, Blake Bortles has a Twitter following of 47,400 people. Before the Jaguars drafted him he had about 30,300. After ending his college career with a great Fiesta Bowl win with Central Florida, Bortles remains a popular name in the state of Florida.
Johnny Manziel | Cleveland Browns
One of the most talked about players coming into the draft, Manziel was taken 22 overall by the Browns. But nearing almost a million followers on both Twitter and Instagram, how could one of the biggest brands not take advantage? Nike signed Manziel months before the draft, showcasing his gear during his Pro Day and his pictures on Instagram.
Manziel had an incredible 790,000 Twitter followers prior to the NFL draft. Today, he has just fewer than one million at 947,000 followers. With the nickname “Johnny Football” the city of Cleveland is hyped over their future quarterback, bestowing a new name on him, “Johnny Cleveland.” His popularity has landed his Browns jersey the top seller among rookies this year. ESPN writer Darren Rovell sums it up well: “Johnny Football is now property of Nike.” Good move for Nike and Johnny Football.
Michael Sam | St. Louis Rams
Also one of the most talked about players coming into the NFL draft, Sam was not taken until the seventh and final round. He has since joined Visa and their campaign aiming at inspiring “people to reach their own personal goals and aspirations,” according to Visa’s chief marketing officer Kevin Burke.
Upon being selected by the Rams, Sam’s tweet about being selected to play for the St. Louis Rams generated 16,000 retweets and 23,000 favorites. His historic journey has gained worldwide attention that Visa is capitalizing on with their campaign.
Whether an athlete is taken No. 1 overall or 249th, a player’s marketing power can show how influential they can be for a brand. Prominent athletes just seem to have a special connection with their fans. They create an emotion in their fans and followers. We want to wear what they wear. We want to eat what they do. You see a picture of your favorite sports athlete drinking an energy drink? You’re in! Fans trust the athlete or the coach, and therefore trust the brands they endorse.
Companies seek to find athletes whose personality and image reflects their brand. The “match” must also be right for the athlete as they become the brand or image for the company they endorse.
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