Advertisers flock to NFL draft with live sport wiped out


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Demand for advertising space during the NFL draft broadcast has reached unprecedented levels due to the growing popularity of the event and a lack of other live sports opportunities, Disney Advertising Sales said this week.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out most of the U.S. sports calendar, but the three-day draft will go forward in a “virtual” format, with players participating from home, and be broadcast on Disney-owned networks ABC and ESPN starting on Thursday.

The high demand has led to a double-digit year-over-year increase in revenue from the event, said James Minnich, vice president, revenue yield management at Disney Advertising Sales.

It has also drawn in the most diverse array of advertisers in the event’s history. More than 100 brands and 60 new advertisers — from tech giants to gardening companies — are airing ads, he said.

“It’s unprecedented times unfortunately for the market but fortunately for this particular event, demand is stronger than ever,” Minnich told Reuters in an interview.

“There’s a certain clientele that’s attracted to live events like this and this is the first large one of its kind,” he said, adding that he expects the event to draw in a record number of viewers due to the strong, quarterback-rich draft class.

The demand extends beyond the traditional broadcast with ad buyers on social media platforms also targeting the draft.

Amy Rumpler, Vice President of paid social at ad buyer Centro, said Google has been offering sponsorship opportunities for the NFL and NFL Network channels on YouTube, highlighting a spike in search interest around the draft.

“A lot of advertisers who were heavily invested in sports sponsorships before now are trying to figure out where to put those dollars. The NFL draft is basically the only sporting event happening right now,” she said.

YouTube was pricing the placements at around $250,000, about double the usual cost of “premium takeover” ads.

That is still far less than pricing around a major event like the Super Bowl, but healthy for a draft that normally would have to compete with baseball for attention from sports fans.

As of last week, all of Reddit’s ad inventory aligned with NFL interest was already sold out, Rumpler said, while Minnich said the first two days of the television broadcasts have sold out but there is still scattered availability for day three.

Additional reporting by Katie Paul in San Francisco and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Toby Davis