Former Alabama linebacker and current Carolina Panther Christian Miller hasn’t played a down in the NFL yet, but he already has a vision of which brands he’d be the perfect pitchman for.
“Off the field, I love to hunt and fish,” Miller said, pointing to outdoor brand Cabela’s or Under Armour, which produces gear for both football and the outdoors, as his ideal brands to work with. Miller isn’t alone among NFL draftees who already have a plan to make money off the field.
At the Chosen event, which agency The Marketing Arm hosted in Nashville, Tenn., the day before the NFL Draft, Miller and about 20 players talked with marketers from big brands like DraftKings, Snickers and luxury fashion brand Dunhill. The players said they had two goals: pitch themselves to brands and get an education on how brands sign endorsers and use them in their marketing.
The event is a chance to learn “how deals actually get done—what that process looks like,” said Jeff Chown, CEO, sports and entertainment at TMA. “Sometimes athletes think the brands’ decision making is pretty easy. Really, it’s a more rigorous process when casting athletes.”
Attendees said that when meeting with players, marketers need to be prepared to answer certain questions.
“What are they looking for in a player? What do they want from me? Do they see me as part of their brand?” said Houston Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. of what he was looking for from brands at the event, adding, “I’m not afraid to do anything. I’ll jump in a silly suit”—all brands have to do is ask.
Miller, Johnson and Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant all wanted to keep the focus of their conversations with marketers to their off-the-field accomplishments and personalities, keying in on that as a differentiator. “I’m perfect for a brand because I’m a likable guy,” Miller said. “I have a strong reputation as a team captain at the University of Alabama. I have a great career ahead of me, but off the field is what separates me. I’m well spoken. I’m reliable and responsible, and I’d be a great get for a brand.”
At least one player at Chosen has already made a decision he knows makes him more marketable—choosing football over baseball. No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray ditched the diamond in favor of the gridiron partly because, he said, “The world is more in love with football.”
The players know that potentially lucrative deals can come out of even a seven-minute meeting with a brand at Chosen. Last year, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin began a relationship with P&G, which culminated in an inspiring Gillette spot. USC blind long snapper Jake Olson, who already starred in an ad for another P&G brand, Head & Shoulders, attended Chosen to meet with more brands. Several marketers at the event couldn’t specify their plans but said they were also interested in telling Olson’s story.
The NFL rookies weren’t the only players in attendance at TMA’s event. Tennessee Titans defensive backs Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan arrived to pick marketers’ brains as two- and seven-year veterans of the NFL. “You never know who you’re going to meet,” Ryan said. “You assume a company like Twitch might be just into video games, but they might have a lot more for you. You might learn something from that company.”
Ryan, who already works with one of the brands in attendance, Mars Petcare, also had sage advice for all the young players in the room going through the “whirlwind” of the NFL Draft: Relax, be honest and “look [marketers] in the eyes and tell them who you are. You might shake a hand that could make you a lot of money someday.”