Representatives from 16 of the biggest agencies in New York packed into the upscale Edison Ballroom for the NFL's annual Media Agency Fantasy Draft Party on Thursday night.
The shops—Horizon, OMD/Optimum Sports, Initiative, Havas, Optimedia, Carat, Zenith, Assembly, Wieden + Kennedy, Starcom, MEC, Universal McCann, Mediavest, Mediacom, PHD and Mindshare—will battle it out, with the top two agencies facing off in an NFL-sponsored flag football game.
"It's for the agencies to get together, have some fun and experience NFL.com fantasy football. They get to know our product, they get to know our team, and they get to know each other," NFL media sales svp Brian Matthews said. "It's a good bonding event."
Zenith national video svp Matt Taukus was quick to point out how valuable the NFL is to his clients.
"It is important to media buys because it's really one of the last places where you can get a pure live viewership, and that's really important to people in this age of fragmentation," Taukus said.
The room was decorated with gold-colored NFL logos, giving the event a glitzy feel. A woman dressed in an authentic kimono poured saki while guests lined up for a massive sushi display. Clients who weren't in the mood for Japanese cuisine lined up at a carving station that featured roast beef, turkey and all of the fixings.
The New York Jets cheerleaders were on hand, and raffle prizes included Xbox One, Bose surround sound systems and hoards of NFL merchandise. There was even a photo booth stocked with authentic helmets and other football props.
Andrew Siciliano from DirecTV RedZone hosted the event and honored Universal McCann for winning the 2014 title before Horizon selected Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell with the first overall pick.
McCann vp integrated investment Steve Sanvicente echoed recent comments by ESPN senior fantasy analyst Matthew Berry by saying that winning the championship helped build relationships within his agency.
"You have to be pretty engaged during the year to keep up. A lot of guys would get together and talk about who to start every week, and we make sure everyone felt involved," Sanvicente said.
"It gives people something to talk about. They can come in every Monday and have an energetic chat. Whenever you can cross personal and professional lines it's always a nice combo," Mindshare managing director Mark Nester said, adding that he looks forward to interacting with other agencies. "Obviously there will be trades and I'm sure a little trash talking."
NFL Network fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano was on hand to offer advice, while former NFL stars-turned-NFL-Network-analysts Maurice Jones-Drew and Shaun O'Hara also mingled with the agency staffers. NFL legends Deion Sanders and Tony Gonzalez showed up to surprise clients by signing autographs and posing for selfies.
"If there is one thing that all of us that work in this business always hear, it's 'I need advice for my fantasy team.' I get it everywhere I go," said DirecTV RedZone's Siciliano. "Everyone wants fantasy advice, and the fact that we're able to be here with our partners, and help them, it's awesome."
MEC manager Mike Wong said, "a lot of our clients have relationships with the NFL, but this really has nothing to do with that. It's just a fun event."