Brands Chase Football Marketing Momentum at NFL Draft

Verizon, Nationwide, Toyota and Snickers join the field pursuing the sport's newest stars in Detroit amid surging viewership

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Though NFL Draft viewership is lower than the league’s usual standards for games, many sports would love to have a fraction of the audience that tuned in on Thursday to see Caleb Williams go to the Chicago Bears with the No. 1 pick.

In 2023, the National Football League welcomed 11.29 million viewers to its first-round NFL Draft broadcasts on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network. That would’ve placed the Draft in the depths of the 50 most-watched sporting events of the year—which were all NFL broadcasts—but still gave it a sports marketing audience larger than all but one game of the World Series and any auto racing event, any domestic or international soccer event or any hockey or tennis event.

That doesn’t include 123 million Super Bowl viewers this year—the largest television audience since 150 million people watched the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. 

“The NFL is riding massive momentum in fandom, interest and viewership, and the draft is an exciting moment for the most passionate fans to welcome the new players,” said Basia Wojcik, vp of sports at The Marketing Arm. “It’s no wonder that brands want to appeal to these fandoms—both the teams’ and the draftees’—and activate around this hopeful event.”

While the draft runs through Saturday in downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza and will be broadcast on NFL Network, ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and streamed on NFL+ throughout, some brands got a jump on the action with ads and activations.

Here are just a few notable examples:


The league launched a spot featuring Brock Purdy (San Francisco 49ers), Puka Nacua (Los Angeles Rams) and Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit Lions)—who each had exceptional rookie years—offering advice to draftees as clips of Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State), Caleb Williams (USC), J.J. McCarthy (University of Michigan) and Jayden Daniels (LSU) play throughout. 

“My advice for draft prospects is letting them know their rookie year is going to be tough in the best way, but make sure you soak up this selection moment and embrace whatever team you end up on,” Hutchinson said. “We have something special here in Detroit, and when you look at the success of last season, we’re going to build off that.”


Peyton Manning, the No. 1 pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, joins financial services company and NFL sponsorship veteran Nationwide in telling league prospects how to handle some of the more awkward on-stage elements of draft night. An NFL sponsor since 2014 and presenting sponsor of its Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, Nationwide just added the league’s retirement-planning sponsorship to its lengthy roster of official league auto, home, life, business, agribusiness and pet insurance partnerships. 

“Nationwide’s decade-long partnership with the National Football League has allowed the brand to engage with some of the most passionate and dedicated fans in the world of sports,” said Ramon Jones, Nationwide’s evp and CMO.


After being selected with the “Mr. Irrelevant” final pick in the 2022 Draft by the San Francisco 49ers before leading them to last year’s Super Bowl, Purdy’s now the center of Official NFL Auto Partner Toyota’s push for its new 2025 Crown Signia.

He’s teased a red-carpet draft interview series hosted by 13-year-old Jaxlyn “Jazzy” Guerra, stars in a 30-second spot giving joking tips to players entering the NFL and introduces fans in Detroit to Toyota vehicles and a passport-style fan game at the NFL’s on-site fan festival.

Rocket Mortgage

Detroit’s own Rocket Mortgage drafted Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his brother Taulia—a member of the 2024 NFL Draft class—to talk about the role siblings and others play in helping each other realize their goals through support. Created by agency partners 160/90, the Rocket Mortgage “Dreammate” campaign also features sportscasters Joy Taylor and Taylor Rooks and Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

“We uncovered a common thread between becoming drafted into the NFL and buying a home that served as the foundation for ‘Dreammate,’” said 160/90 global executive creative director Jody Friedericks. “These milestone, dreams-do-come-true moments don’t happen without some support, and everyone can relate to having someone believe in them before they truly unlocked their full potential.”


Sharpie unsurprisingly wants to leave a lasting impression, continuing a campaign launched in February with the University of Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Rome Odunze—the brand’s first Sharpie Rookies of The Year. Penix and Odunze committed to using only Sharpie products at pivotal moments throughout their first year in the NFL, so Newell Brands marker marque has an ad showing them training to write their contract signatures with Sharpie S-Gel pens.

“Elite athletes require elite equipment, and that extends to their writing tools,” said Gina Lazaro, vp at Newell Brands. 

Los Angeles Rams Draft House

The Rams continue to make draft day the most involved, brand-heavy, LA-appropriate marketing experience possible—and keep doing so thousands of miles from the draft site.

Partnering with Zillow, the Rams converted a 9,150-square-foot Hermosa Beach estate into General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay’s Draft headquarters. Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua toured the home virtually with Zillow’s Immerse app on Apple Vision Pro, while the team gave the house a Showcase listing and stocked it with offerings from partners 1800 Tequila, Audi, Baxter of California, Bud Light, Corona, Gatorade and PepsiCo.

Audacy Sports

Hosting a Radio Row with its brands, posting podcast episodes previewing the draft and analyzing each round, hosting betting analysis from BetQL Network and sponsoring a private concert with Jelly Roll at The Fillmore, Audacy is using the NFL Draft as a coming-out party for its Audacy Sports.

The Audacity Sports logo
Audacy Sports made its debut at the NFL Draft.Audacy

Offering ad buyers a complete package of broadcast, digital and podcast sports properties across the country, Audacy Sports encompasses 40 sports stations, 160 streaming channels and more than 600 programs and live events. The company boasts 43 million monthly listeners across all of those properties, including fans of 150 pro and college sports teams and the official audio and podcasts of Major League Baseball.


Before any team called his name, Rome Odunze was already in high demand among brands

Rome Odunze eating Snickers ice cream
Snickers didn’t questions Rome Odunze’s hunger.Mars Corporation

Snickers Ice Cream built an entire ice cream holder around the wide receiver’s hands and made it the center of its draft campaign. Through May 2, the NFL and Snickers Ice Cream are offering fans a chance to win an ice cream “chiller” and a six-pack of Snickers ice cream bars at


Using its partnerships with the NFL and the Detroit Lions, Verizon launched its “Call to Pro” initiative following Rome Odunze and Texas; Adonai “AD” Mitchell as they use Verizon’s service to call someone who couldn’t be with them on draft night. Odunze called his grandfather, while Mitchell will contact his wide receiver coach at Texas.

Verizon will keep following Oduze and Mitchell throughout the season as part of a video and social media series. It has also renewed its Official 5G Network partnership with the Detroit Lions, making it the sponsor of the team’s Thanksgiving Day Halftime Show. The brand celebrated by giving away Lions jerseys in Detroit during the draft and bringing in small business food vendors to the NFL fan festival to showcase some of its Small Business Digital Ready users.

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