The NFL’s Wild Sponsorship Rules for 2020 Draft Could Cost Players Up To $50K

The NFL’s Wild Sponsorship Rules for 2020 Draft Could Cost Players Up To $50K article feature image

Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

If an NFL draft prospect is drinking out of a soda can while being shown on the April 23-25 broadcast, it can't be Coca-Cola. And if he’s eating candy, it can't be a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Those are only two of the rules on a long list of corporate do's and don'ts the NFL has sent to draft prospects and their marketers ahead of the completely-virtual broadcast to ensure that its 50 official league sponsors and partners are protected and not ambushed by non-league partners on one of the biggest nights in sports.

According to the memo obtained by The Action Network, the NFL maintains that — although the players who will be featured on the telecast haven't signed contracts — their appearance is property of the NFL.

[Read the full memo the NFL sent to draft prospects]

"Do NOT have any products displaying brands or logos that have not been approved by the NFL within camera range of your feed for the NFL Draft broadcast," the memo reads.

Prospective draftees will receive a welcome kit of products from NFL partners, including the following PepsiCo products: Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Bubly, Gatorade and Frito Lay snacks such as Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos. Mars candy will also be included, which means Skittles, Snickers and M&M’s.

Marketers aren't exactly thrilled with the arrangement, saying it imposes terms of players who aren't yet in the league.

"What happens if a player has a partnership with a league partner like Bose and a non-league partner, like some chicken place?" asked one marketer, who preferred to remain anonymous. "They’re not going to show the feed and hurt the league partner?"

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Another marketer said being allowed to negotiate only with league partners will cost potential top draft picks between $5,000 and $50,000 in one-off marketing opportunities on draft day.

Players' clothing is also being closely dictated: They cannot wear logos of any brand other than an NFL team or an official league partner such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour or New Era. Their clothing is also expected to be clean, free of liberal or hate speech, and cannot make a political statement. References to alcohol, drugs or gambling (including poker) are prohibited as well.

Prospective draftees will also be given communication kits and are asked not to wear any other personal devices.

Billie Weiss/Getty Images. Pictured: Bill Belichick

There were always small on-screen deals for draftees, but that changed in 2015, when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota elected to stay home instead of go to the draft. Both were paid to promote Beats by Dre, a competitor of the league's official sponsor, Bose.

In 2017, Athletes First — marketers for Missouri defensive end Charles Harris — sold a deal to Jack Link’s Beef Jerky for its mascot, the Sasquatch, to appear in the background of Harris' shot when he got drafted 22nd overall by the Miami Dolphins. Jack Link’s didn’t have an official deal with the league.

Last year, ESPN took control, telling agents that they would not take a home feed from a player who was drafted if there was a sponsor or logo in the camera's path.

With the complete virtual nature of the 2020 NFL Draft, the league decided to take charge. ABC will do its own broadcast of Rounds 1-3 and will simulcast a singular ESPN and NFL Network broadcast of Rounds 4-7. Hosts will include talent from ESPN’s broadcast facilities using a skeleton crew, and others such as Rich Eisen, who will contribute remotely. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will announce the pick selections from his home.

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