If you thought the boss threw a lot of rules at you on your first day of work, try being Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow, or Chase Young. Those college football stars got their marching orders regarding the NFL draft in a memo last week – but at least they got candy in the deal.
Ever conscious of keeping its corporate sponsors happy, the league has compiled a list of do’s and don’ts for the college prospects who’ll appear on TV and computer screens across the country via teleconference next Thursday and Friday.
The league likes to be in control of its NFL draft
The NFL draft has been a carefully choreographed extravaganza since not long after ESPN began showing the proceedings live in 1980. The annual April proceedings, which now span Thursday through Saturday, attract a large audience of football fans eager to see the players who’ll be wearing the uniform of their favorite team in the fall.
It’s evolved into a huge event that removes the NBA and Major League Baseball from the consciousness of a lot of sports fans while teams are on the clock. With that being the case, the NFL has gotten very good at producing the show.
Players selected in the first couple of rounds emerge from the VIP room and are handed their new team’s hat. They walk onto the stage where the commissioner gives them a hug or a handshake and helps hold up a jersey often already customized with the player’s name.
The stage is surrounded with branding for the league and its teams. What you won’t see is anything that might upset the companies that pay millions of dollars a year to be the official partners of the NFL. A player isn’t going to be allowed onto the stage holding a can of Coca-Cola (it had better be Pepsi or nothing at all) or a cellphone with an AT&T logo (it had better be Verizon).
The NFL has lost some control because of the coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic will pose a challenge for the NFL draft beginning next Thursday. Restrictions on large gatherings have forced the league to turn the event into a virtual gathering. General managers will work from their home offices and college players will accept congratulations from their living rooms, surrounded by family and friends. And everyone will – hopefully – be networked via phone and internet technology.
The NFL’s biggest worry probably involves having the multi-node video conference hijacked by hackers. A close second on the list of concerns is the possibility of a player intentionally or accidentally promoting a product that upsets the league’s official brand partners. It could be as simple as the player sipping a can of the “wrong” soda or wearing a shirt with a political message while being interviewed live.
It’s no laughing matter to Anheuser-Busch, which pays the NFL $230 million a year or Verizon, which ponies up $300 million. That’s why the NFL sent a no-nonsense memo and a package of goodies to players who’ll be appearing on-screen after being selected.
The NFL’s rules for college stars are specific
Reporter Darren Rovell obtained the memo that the league sent top college football stars ahead of the NFL draft in the interest of protecting approximately 50 official sponsors.
“Do NOT have any products displaying brands or logos that have not been approved by the NFL within camera range of your feed for the NFL Draft broadcast,” the memo reads. Players were also warned about their choice of clothing. If there is a logo visible, it had better be for Adidas, New Era, Nike, or Under Armour. And anything of a political nature or referring to alcohol or drugs is also forbidden.
According to Rovell, the league can get away with such demands despite the players not yet being official employees because the NFL controls the event. To help the college stars comply during the NFL draft, the league sent a welcome kit of approved products that included Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Doritos, and Skittles.
The players are also being supplied with communication kits and have been asked not to wear any other personal devices such as unapproved headphones.