How It’s Done: Facebook Live at the 2017 NFL Draft

Not everyone has the opportunity to go to the NFL Draft, and especially not for work. In 2017, I was working at a large advertising agency in Milwaukee who had Comcast XFINITY as a client. Comcast’s headquarters are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which conveniently was the host city for the 2017 NFL Draft. As a massive cable content provider obviously the NFL Draft is a pretty big deal.

The agency I worked for at the time managed many of the sports partnerships for Comcast, which meant we got to work on the event activation for the Draft. Upon hearing this news around the office I promptly hit up some of my closest guy friends who happen to be HUGE NFL fans and requested that they teach me everything there was to know about the Draft.

Lucky for me, these guys proved to be a much better source of information than my various Google searches on the topic. I was able to get a good sense of what NFL Draft junkies wanted to know prior to Draft Day in order to brainstorm ideas for what to pitch back to our client, Comcast, and their partners at the NFL Network.

So what did the process of pitching a Facebook Live to one of the largest cable content providers in the country and the NFL Network look like?

After doing my homework and understanding what sort of content Draft fans would want to see leading up to the Draft, we began collaborating as a team at work to come up with various ideas to pitch back to our client and their partner. We put together a pitch deck that contained several different ideas ranging from Facebook Live concepts to large-scale social contests all the way to in footprint contests with social amplification.

We then pitched our various ideas to our client and narrowed down to our best two or three based on what they liked and what would be feasible in accordance with their partnership with the NFL Network and with the confines of which we’d be able to leverage the NFL Network talent.

We then worked with our client to pitch our ideas to the NFL Network and narrowed down to doing a Facebook Live with two NFL Network talents to be disclosed at a later time.

Not knowing which talent we would have at the event to be on camera for our Facebook Live presented some interesting challenging while trying to hammer out the topics and discussion points for our Facebook Live. It wasn’t until a little over a week before the Draft that we found out we’d be working with Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor. Until we found out who we’d be working with, we just developed content ideas and talking points living on a prayer. We got lucky with two great, super popular NFL vets who are now great on-camera talent.

Many challenges presented themselves along the way. Many time changes happened and things weren’t formally locked in until a couple of days until my colleague and I were on a plane heading to Philly. This made it challenging to create the promotional assets required in order to publicize a Facebook Live segment as impressive as this one. We also had a lot of back and forth with our client regarding paid budgets and getting that finalized with the media buying partner. We also had to quickly procure gimbals, microphones, WiFi hotspots, and other technologies required for successfully pulling off a quality Facebook Live. We also wouldn’t be able to test all of this technology until the day prior to the Draft which meant if anything wasn’t working or went wrong we would not have much time to troubleshoot.

Draft Day arrived and our team assembled and headed to the XFINITY Zone, our event activation within Draft Town, where we would be filming the Facebook Live with MJD and Ike. We quickly tested and did troubleshooting prior to go-live time and ensured everything was ready. We had a team of 4 people to pull this off, everyone wearing a different hat.

I manned the camera and made sure everything was working smoothly while another team member was off-camera guiding the conversation with MJD and Ike and interspersing the segment with fan questions from those who gathered to catch the experience live from the XFINITY Zone. The other two team members were responsible for monitoring any questions that came in via the live broadcast and responding where necessary and another had headphones in making sure that the stream continued on seamlessly and that sound quality was always good.

The segment was 15 minutes long and went off without a hitch. During this time, MJD and Ike discussed first pick predictions and the latest fashion trends from all of the NFL’s next top athletes. We had a pretty penny (cannot disclose client’s budget) which was used to promote this segment and to-date this Facebook Live has 437,000 views.

At the end of the day, we left with a very happy client and partner and were able to successfully execute this task in an outdoor event space with spotty internet and LIVE fans present. A lot could have gone wrong but it went off without a hitch.

What did I learn from this experience?

  • Always be patient. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen on this project – 4 team members on-site (excluding TONS back home and others on-site who weren’t involved in the live portion of the event), clients, partners, and talent. Keep calm and be patient with everyone and things will go much more smoothly.
  • Be flexible, wear whatever hat is required of you. In this situation I was the account manager and part of the execution team, however, by the end of the day, I was walking MJD and Ike to where they had to be after their time with us. It was a super humbling and gratifying experience being able to help out in ways that maybe didn’t fall within my given job title/description.
  • Test things multiple times, don’t assume things are going to work properly the first time. We had lots of troubleshooting the day before and even 30 minutes before we went live. It’s important to always be creative and come up with out-of-the-box solutions. Instead of using a microphone attached to our camera we instead leveraged the sound system within the activation footprint to ensure sound quality would be superb on our broadcast. That isn’t something we could have predicted or planned for.
  • Don’t try to do everything on your own. I mentioned all of the different roles our team members played to make this successful. Remember it is best to work with others than to be the hero on your own.

This was definitely the largest (and coolest) social activation of my career and one I’m proud to provide a case study on. Also, a massive shoutout to Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor who were the most patient and kind celebrities I’ve ever worked with.

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