The Culture of Celebrating Digitally: Shaq Diesel and Other Key Learnings From The NFL Draft

How do you market when the world is turned upside down? If old solutions no longer fit the new paradigm, it’s time to find inspiration and answers in unusual places – like the first online-only NFL draft.

By Jesse Kirshbaum of the Nue Agency

In this crazy time, we are all trying to stay both safe and sane but with no sports, no live music events, no parties, no festivals, the fun-loving world has been in a rough space and not to mention, bored as hell. 

Given new professional quality content is not on the table for now, from SNL to the late night talk show circuit, we are all being forced to rethink how we connect with one another and the NFL is no different. 

The draft was the first major sporting event not subject to cancellation and rabid sports fans everywhere reacted accordingly. Sure it was going to be different than any other year but both the NFL and fans alike were pushing forward regardless. With no camera crews, no huge Las Vegas spectacle, no VIP after parties, 55 million sports fans had to fulfill their hunger for some excitement in an entirely different way which meant one thing….this was going to be a big moment in culture with a huge opportunity for ingenuity.

Cut to yogurt…yes, yogurt. Oikos, one of the official NFL partners who sponsors teams, runs super bowl commercials and in a pre-COVID world, hosts an A-list afterparty; found itself with a hole in its marketing plan and in turn, a unique opportunity to super serve all of its consumers with some good ol’ celebratory fun. Enter savvy brand marketers, a cadre of strategic and innovative agency teams ( ICF Next, GMR Marketing, Lightening Orchard, Social Code Inc, Wavemaker Global), a noteworthy charity (Meals on Wheels) & some celebrities with household names, all aligning to make a unique moment in culture come to life. 

Jimmy Valdes, head of brand at Oikos, tapped his strategic set of advisors and activated a new concept, in what felt like minutes. Oikos would throw a virtual, NFL sanctioned after party in the safest way possible…online.

Valdes, a client of the Nue Agency during his days at Mondelez, tapped us with the exciting task of coming up with a strategy for both sourcing and engaging talent as well as the overall approach to the activation.

Up until this time, similar to every other person and business, things had been very weird for Nue. We were watching as our year of culture marketing activations (concerts, live events, conferences, festivals etc.) were canceled. However, despite the immense sadness associated with this, there was innovation emerging rapidly because resilience is programmed into human DNA.  We took the approach of cultural anthropologists, surveyed the landscape, saw what was working, connected with friends, colleagues and artists to see where their heads were at and made a plan. 

An Atypical Ask

This was an atypical ask to say the least, engaging talent would take a soft touch and a steady hand. Nue’s background in artist representation means we know what creatives respond to, we speak their language and understand how to bridge the gap between brands and artists better than anyone so we were equipped to bring on the right folks….and fast.

Rapid back and forth with Jimmy resulted with a killer lineup starring Shaquile O’neal aka Shaq Diesel, serving as the DJ and host. In addition, we secured a handful of A-list guests, to do a digital version of the club walk through. This diverse lineup of relevant athletes, music stars, influencer, e-sports stars really rounded out the ingredients of the perfect party. 

Now typically when procuring an A-List talent such as Shaq, there are layers of handlers working on the project but given he is in quarantine with his family, we ended up in the extremely capable and social media savvy hands of his son Myles.  From a digital walkthrough, to having Shaq’s family hang the branding, to tech snafus fixed live in the moment, the nuances of the new normal were both challenging and exciting.

The party got underway on IG Live, the “it” venue of the moment, at 10pm EST and saw a who’s who of guests.  3 NFL draftees lined up to pop in live from their home draft parties as well as DJ Khaled, Megan Trainer, Gronk, Quarantined DJ King D-Nice, Saquan Barkley, Toosie (the Tik Tok sensation that Drake named his number single after) and Faze Apex, one of the top gamers and owners of the red hot esports collective Faze Clan. 

450k plus attendees, a 50k donation to Meals on Wheels, 328MM impressions

Similar to an IRL party, as the IG Live feed started to pop, it became harder for people to get through to Shaq, including a few of the new NFL Rookies who got lost in the crowd. However, like a true red carpet, LL Cool J and Swizzbeatz managed to cut the line when they made their organic cameos.

All in all, it was quite an evening, 450k plus attendees, a 50k donation to Meals on Wheels, 328MM impressions and overall good will!! “This was a great moment for Oikos, Shaq was the perfect choice as he is the true embodiment of our brand promise that Stronger Makes Everything Better. This last minute pivot to a digital party allowed everyone to celebrate the incredible athletes drafted into the NFL this year, even if we all had to do it from our living rooms!”

This is where things are going. Even as quarantine restrictions ease, heading to Governors Island for a festival or Gillette Stadium for a game is not in our near future. Yet, despite COVID-19, we still need to come together both for the sake of community as well as the culture.  This unique moment in time creates an opportunity for brands to do things that are beneficial to both themselves as well as their quarantined consumers. With this forced shift of human behavior, brands can still put their dollars behind music to authentically generate positive consumer sentiment and become the modern day patron saints of the arts. 

To that end, we believe brands who connect in this era, take a stand, support the creative community and engage their consumers in a meaningful way, will be rewarded handsomely with growth, customer loyalty, and all the other organic halo benefits we know culture marketing reaps. For the first time in a long time, we are hopeful for the future and look forward to the innovation that’s to come.

  • Commercial Links: Cryceps (NFL Draft), Super Bowl Commercial *note, this one isn’t on their YouTube, so the link I have is to an AdAge article about the ad with the video embedded

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  1. Presently ordinarily while getting an A-List ability, for example, Shaq, there are layers of handlers chipping away at the venture however given he is in isolation with his family, we wound up in the amazingly skilled and internet-based life smart hands of his child Myles. From a computerized walkthrough to having Shaq’s family hang the marking, to tech messes fixed life right now, the subtleties of the new type were both testing and energizing.
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