Thursday
Apr152010

NFL, Marketers Seek To 'Own' A Week During MLB Openers, NBA/NHL Playoffs

April 15, 2010: April is the first month of the 2010 MLB season and also marks the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs. But that all is page two news to the NFL, which is seeking to make headlines by "owning" a week in April.

The NFL will broadcast the 75th annual NFL Draft during prime time for the first time April 22-24 on ESPN. But to ensure that football fans — and all others who want to come along for the ride — are also thinking NFL during the week, the league said it would unveil its 2010 schedule exclusively on NFL.com on April 20. Concurrently, NFL Network will feature a two-hour special, NFL Total Access: 2010 Schedule Release Presented by GMC Sierra.

"Just on the ratings, it’s going to have a huge impact on Thursday night," Jay Rothman, ESPN senior coordinating producer, said during a conference call on April 13. " It’s a largely viewed night in prime time. I think the promotion leads to all of that awareness."

Online presenting partners include Lexus and M&M's. Among other activations, Bud Light is hosting "2010 Draft Day Parties" at locations in NFL cities on April 22 and Visa is enabling fans to pre-order NFL jerseys that will have the name of the No. 1 player selected by their respective team.

Verizon, which has replaced Sprint as the NFL's official wireless service partner, has unveiled its NFL Mobile application to coincide with the NFL Draft., the first event to covered by the application. Among the features, subscribers can follow all draft picks with a real time tracker, have access to in-depth profiles for each prospect, get live 24/7 streaming of NFL Network’s coverage of the draft, a pick-by-pick draft tracker updated in real time and in-depth prospect profiles, blogs and news.

Despite the fact that its alliance with the NFL has ended, Sprint has launched Sprint Football Live, an application that will provide football fans complete coverage of the 2010 draft. Via the application, fans can follow picks, trades and news  on their phone as it happens.Sprint Football Live is available on most Sprint handsets, and all Sprint video-enabled phones offer Sprint TV.

In addition to being the first outlet to post the complete team-by-team and weekly schedules of all 256 regular-season games for the coming season, NFL.com will feature a new interactive application giving fans a voice through fan forums, rating the schedules and answering poll questions. Other features will include analysis by NFL.com reporters and breakdowns of the schedules.

NFL.com will indicate which games will be on CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and NFL Network. There will be printer-friendly versions of the team-by-team and week-by-week schedules.

NFL Network's NFL Total Access special will also look at the top games of 2010, the NFC championship game last season between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, the Indianapolis Colts versus the New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys’ December schedule, who has the easiest schedule to start the season and where the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft will make his debut (the St. Louis Rams currently have the top overall pick). The special concludes with early picks for who will win Super Bowl XLV, to be played in Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6, 2011 in Dallas.

ESPN has been running promos for the NFL Draft, which will take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Draft-related content will be available across multiple ESPN platforms, including ESPN Radio, ESPNEWS, ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN International.

Regarding ESPN's prime time coverage, Rothman said, "The approach this year is less is more, keep it in Radio City, keep it where the action is, keep it where the buzz is and make it more simple and fleet-footed. The electricity and abundance of players will make it more of a ‘wow’ factor. Increasing from eight to 14 players is a big deal. We’ve sprinkled more cameras around the theater to have more vantage points to capture that a little bit more. I think it will be pretty electric."

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