Last weekend, college stars became household names in new markets as their names were called during the 2021 NFL Draft. Through endorsements and social media, brands and fans were eager to align with the NFL’s rookie class. SBJ Atlas took a look at the data to identify which marquee players were most impacted by NFL Draft Weekend.
No player saw a larger boost to their Instagram following than Arizona Cardinals LB Zaven Collins (+257%). Collins, whose video showing his phone call with the Cardinals brass after being drafted went viral, immediately became a fan favorite of the Red Sea. Collins also cracked the top five on Twitter where his follower count increased by +133%.
Los Angeles Chargers OL Rashawn Slater ranked second in follower growth across both Instagram (+134%) and Twitter (+174%). Slater’s position in the top five can largely be attributed to his relatively small following on the social platforms prior to the draft.
The other predictably big mover on draft night was the player the 49ers made a big move for – Trey Lance. After being taken third overall, Lance saw his follower count on Instagram increase by over 100,000 followers (+129.6%) and saw his Twitter following increase by +155%. Lance was also one of the most endorsed draftees on social where he activated sponsored content for Chipotle, Old Spice, Sleep Number, Panini, and Xbox over the past few weeks.
Despite coming into the draft with the fifth-largest Instagram following across all tracked draftees, Mac Jones was still able to crack the top five for follower growth thanks to the New England Patriots lead-leading social footprint. The Patriots boast more than 750,000 followers on Instagram than the next closest team.
Given the size of their follower base and the involvement of their fans throughout the year, most teams didn’t experience noticeable shifts in their social following on draft night. However, three of the teams drafting new signal-callers saw the largest follower growth on both Twitter and Instagram. The Jaguars led the way with 9,000 followers added over the 24 hours surrounding the first round of the draft (+1.8%).
According to SBJ Atlas’ sponsorship data, the two most sought-after draftees based on endorsement counts are Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Both players, along with four other tracked players, posted activations for Bose using their #RuleTheQuiet hashtag. Lawrence has frequently posted about his new partnerships with sports powerhouses Adidas and Gatorade along with Panini, Wingstop, and Blockfolio, a cryptocurrency platform.
Fields’ first endorsement was signed with C4 Energy where he joined fellow draftees Micah Parsons, Jaycee Horn, and Kyle Pitts. Fields followed up his agreement with C4 by appearing in commercials for Lowe’s and Progressive Insurance and activating Chipotle and Wonderful Pistachios on social.
First-round picks Najee Harris, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson each partnered with five brands in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Similar to Fields, Najee Harris was drafted by Drew Brees to join the #LowesHomeTeam and also joined Nate Burleson in Progressive’s “Up All Night” series. Harris also promoted EA Sports, Pizza Hut, and the NFL Extra Points program on social leading up to the draft.
Lance’s endorsements around the draft included Chipotle, EA Sports, Old Spice, Panini, and Sleep Number. New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson promoted Utah-based businesses Aptive and Traeger Grills as he capitalized on his local name recognition. Other companies activating with Wilson included Bose, Chipotle, and Verizon.
EA Sports flooded timelines during draft weekend to promote Madden 21 with nine tracked players and numerous others. Throughout draft weekend, players challenged fans from their new teams to play them in Madden 21 on both Xbox and PlayStation.
Raising Cane’s made a huge push across draft weekend by activating with DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, Pitts, Slater, and Terrace Marshall. Each player served as a “Caniac Ambassador” as the fried chicken chain provided food to help with their draft day festivities.
Bose and Chipotle each partnered with four draftees to promote their business on social. Bose has made a habit of sponsoring draftees by leveraging the moment the players’ new teams call to inform them that they are being drafted to display their headphones. Chipotle released a clever content series where they created a unique bowl for Fields, Lance, and Wilson. Leading up to the draft, each player promoted the bowl named after them and posted various pictures while eating Chipotle.