Bridgestone wants to sell a lot of tires during the NFL draft in Philadelphia.
And with a potential television and online audience of 30 million over three days on ESPN and the NFL Network, it chose to make a significant media buy.
Bridgestone branding appears in the “Elite Performers” segment featured in live NFL Network broadcasts and on digital banners on NFL.com. The firm also affords consumers a direct experience: catching a ball over a foam pit and using social-media photo stations to display and share pics more easily. Being the NFL's official tire company through 2021 doesn’t hurt either.
The draft "offers us unrivaled opportunities to showcase our products and talk to fans directly,” said Keith Cawley, spokesman for Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas.
Philadelphia is projected to receive an estimated $115 million in media exposure over the three-day live telecast – equivalent to the $114.7 million ad value that Chicago got in both 2015 and 2016 from hosting the draft.
Ad value is defined as “the value of the exposure that the city of Philadelphia will receive by being shown on TV and digital platforms for three days,” league spokesman Alex Riethmiller said. “Think of it like a city taking an ad out to help drive tourism.”
Riethmiller said this ad value differs from revenue that the NFL media, such as ESPN, NFL Network, and NFL.com, will take in from advertisers.
This year, the ad buy was the biggest ever when totaling up all platforms, with “most companies buying both TV and digital ads,” Riethmiller said. It reflects the NFL’s growing online audience.
Among those that made a huge investment in ads on NFL.com and the NFL Network are Hyundai, Verizon, Lexus, Anheuser-Busch, Marriott, Ford, Nationwide, Bridgestone, P&G, the Marine Corps , KFC, and New Era, which made the official 2017 NFL draft hats.
Ads from Pepsi, Honda, and ZipRecruiter can be seen on the NFL Network while Marriott’s name was prevalent throughout Thursday’s draft telecast on ESPN.
Likewise, Verizon and Hyundai are co-presenting sponsors of the NFL draft on NFL.com.
"Verizon's exposure in television broadcast, digital, and social, and even streamed live for customers on Verizon NFL Mobile, gives us a chance to showcase our innovation and the power of our network to some of the most fanatical fans in the world," said John Nitti, chief media officer for Verizon.
Anna Rogers, director for Anheuser-Busch, said the beer maker was engaging with consumers like old-time friends, and that this year’s draft ads were part of a plan repositioning the brand.
“With Bud Light being the official beer of the NFL, it makes sense for us to advertise and have a presence at the NFL draft,” Rogers said.
Meryl Levitz, CEO of Visit Philadelphia, said viewers who tuned in to the draft’s first night Thursday got a panoramic view of the Ben Franklin Parkway with thousands of excited fans cheering after the Eagles selected Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round.
“Having 50,000-plus happy people having fun at night in a beautiful part of Philadelphia is like having a video version of those old-school postcards that say, `Having wonderful time. Wish you were here,’ " Levitz said. “And that video postcard will play over and over for three great days.”
Americus Reed II, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, agreed an event like the draft can be a critical image-builder for a city, but cautioned that watching the draft and the ads won’t necessarily translate to the desired outcome with all viewers.
“There is something called a purchase funnel: awareness, consideration, evaluation [trial], purchase intent, purchase, post-purchase loyalty,” Reed said. “It’s a funnel because you lose possible buyers at each step of this funnel.
“However, by having millions of eyeballs and potentially millions of additional screens and parallel social-media activity, there is a higher chance of the message/marketing moment to go viral,” he said. “It can spread in a very accelerated fashion.”
Bridgestone knows this, and that's why viewers on the NFL Network will see loads of tire commercials and the company’s moniker on the TV screen during the draft telecast.
The company also has several “activation centers” near the draft theater that include Bridgestone-sponsored live broadcast segments on NFL property, and a large on-site fan engagement area, the Bridgestone Experience Fan Zone.
That gives fans a chance to capture their own “performance moment” while diving to catch a pass over a giant foam pit.