NFL Draft Leaves Players and Las Vegas In Tight Spot

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  • By canceling its live event, the NFL Draft will leave new NFL players without an opportunity to showcase their marketability.
  • While Las Vegas’ short-term outlook is dire, the cancellation could bring more events like another draft or a future Super Bowl.
Vegas NFL Draft
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Many parties are likely to see a dramatic drop off in expected revenue this year with the NFL’s decision not to hold its draft in Las Vegas this spring.

For the players themselves, a lack of a live draft will block them from one of their first touchpoints with brands as a professional athlete.

“For incoming first-round draft picks, they take a major hit regarding building relationships with all brands, especially corporate brands that are partnered with the league such as Bose, New Era, Old Spice, Gillette, and more,” Maxx Lepselter, president of Maxx Branding and Management said. “Draft weekend for the incoming players is like that trial period where brands see how these guys handle responsibilities, align authentically with the brand, and are genuine people that you want to build with long term.”

Previously, Lepselter said a lack of a physical draft in Las Vegas would cost some of his clients up to six figures worth of potential deals. They include Raiders players, Hall of Fame talent and incoming prospects. Maxx Branding itself also has major brand opportunities in jeopardy. 

While Brad Cutler, president and CEO of The Cut, isn’t representing any players in this year’s draft, he sees an opportunity for the brand-athlete relationship to take another step forward digitally. His conversations with talent buyers suggest they aren’t planning to stop spending, but rather change how they spend it.

“If brands activate, they’re not pumping the brakes, they’ll activate,” he said. “Right now, you have the power of social media; everyone has their phones in hand.”

Beyond the draft, Cutler said his agency has shifted to focus solely on digital opportunities. Each player, however, is different, and some aren’t as willing to compromise their social feeds to make a quick paycheck. Others are – especially those on the lower end of the pay scale.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Hiatuses Provide Athletes Digital Marketing Opportunities

“Brands aren’t shutting down; people need to eat, survive,” he said. “People will be paying more attention to social media ads and campaigns. No one is doing physical shoots or appearances.” 

Las Vegas Effect

Las Vegas will lose out on an enormous amount of economic activity related to the NFL Draft, but there could be some upside. 

According to the NFL, the 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas generated $125.2 million in economic impact, including $74 million in direct spending as more than 200,000 fans attended. Last year, draft economic activity grew 79% in Nashville, with $224 in overall economic impact and $133 million in direct spending from 600,000 visitors. 

The 2019 NFL Draft also drew 47.5 million viewers in 115 countries.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association was understanding of the cancellation, responding to FOS in an email.

“The LVCVA understands and supports the NFL’s decision to cancel the Draft, reinforced by the CDC’s latest recommendation to cancel all events with more than 50 people to curb the spread of coronavirus,” the statement read. “The top priority today and in the days and weeks ahead is to ensure our community and visitors stay safe. We will continue to follow the Health District and CDC’s recommendations and guidance.”

The LVCVA had spent approximately $2.4 million on draft preparation, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, but was slated to spend more as the event neared.

While Las Vegas is likely to hurt this year between the NFL’s decision to pull out and the decision by many of the city’s resorts to close during the coronavirus, the crisis may be a boon for its future event calendar. 

With the 2022 draft yet to be awarded to a city, there’s speculation it could find its way to Las Vegas between years in Cleveland and Kansas City. 

Likewise, the Super Bowl could find itself in Las Vegas.

READ MORE: New NFL Wild Card Games Positioned To Be Ad Sales Boon

In a statement announcing that the NFL would no longer be hosting live events in Las Vegas around the draft, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “while this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”

The short-term could hurt for Las Vegas, but long-term should be beneficial, Lee Berke, president and chief executive officer of LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, said.

“NFL football is coming to Las Vegas permanently starting this fall, so any losses should be made up for by the games themselves,” Berke said. “Additionally, the NFL may want to make it up to Las Vegas by offering up another draft and possibly a Super Bowl.” 

“If a Super Bowl is provided as a makegood, the business generated by the first-ever Super Bowl in Las Vegas will dwarf any losses incurred from missing the draft,” he said.