Much like the rest of the world, video conferencing has become increasingly important for the NFL and its 32 teams.
For the Houston Texans, Zoom meetings are now also a fan engagement tool, with the team leaning into the technology as a way to interact with them around the draft.
“The idea here is to have our fans feel like they’re part of the draft all weekend,” Houston Texans Director of Marketing Jackie Maldonado said. “It is a unique opportunity for us because, in a normal setting, we would only have had one day of the draft. With this virtual element, we now have our fans get excited about and celebrate every take with us from day one of the draft to day three of the draft.”The Texans’ draft experience will begin on April 24, when the team will host a watch party that will conclude after it makes its first draft choice. Conducted over a Zoom call, the experience will have two Texans players or ambassadors hosting each watch party, along with appearances from Texans cheerleaders, a live DJ, and their mascot TORO. The Texans do not currently hold a first round pick, and are not scheduled to choose until pick 40.
Three Texans season-ticket members will have the chance to win this experience and invite up to 19 of their friends to their exclusive watch party. The team began emailing its season-ticket database on April 15 to gauge fan interest. In less than 24 hours, they received several hundred submissions from interested season-ticket holders.
READ MORE: NFL Draft Parties Going Virtual In 2020
The winners will be delivered a Miller Lite Draft pack that contains Papa John’s pizza, NFL Draft pint glasses, a draft hat, and a Texans cooler.
The Texans will also be using Zoom to hold a virtual happy hour, which is being presented by Miller Lite. Fans were encouraged to sign up for a chance to host their own happy hour through the team’s website.
The winner can also invite up to 19 friends of his or her choice to the virtual happy hour. In addition to giving out the same prizes as the watch party, they will be co-hosting the virtual happy hour alongside Texans analyst John Harris and broadcaster Marc Vandermeer. They will also receive four tickets and parking to a future Texans home game.Ahead of the last day of the draft, Texans TV talent Drew Dougherty and Deepi Sidhu will host a pre-draft show on Zoom for fans to watch.
“It gives us the opportunity to bring everybody together where they typically wouldn’t have a chance to celebrate the draft in this unique virtual element,” Maldonado said.
Once a winner is selected, the Texans are asking them to select the people they want in their virtual happy hour or watch party, Maldonado said. After the team is given the participants’ full names, they will all be placed in a waiting room on Zoom. The Texans will have a staff member who will be coordinating the Zoom calls and monitoring the virtual happy hour and watch party.
The Texans have also worked to ensure that any efforts on Zoom are not plagued by ‘zoom-bombings,” or other disruptions. “We have been really grateful that our IT department has helped vet out a lot of these policy and security issues that have surfaced in the media over the last few weeks,” Maldonado said.
While the Texans would most likely prefer to be holding in-person events, the team is making the best of the situation to reach fans in this new way.“We don’t know where we’re going to be in the next couple of months, but what I can say is the interest is there from [our fans],” she said. “We know that if we had to pivot or things changed from a sports perspective or from an entertainment perspective, we know that we have these watch parties that have proven to show a lot of interest. I’m most excited to see our fans and our players engage together using these Zoom calls and experience the draft together.”