- The National Football League is letting viewers of this year's player draft buy through Instagram the special-edition team hats that recruits wear for the occasion. The @NFL account on Instagram will have shoppable tags on pictures of players who wear the customized bill hats, Variety first reported.
- Instagram hired fashion photographer Geoff Levy to take backstage pictures of the first-round players wearing the hats at the NFL's draft, which starts at 8 p.m. today in Nashville and runs through April 27.
- Fans who click on the shoppable tags will be directed to the online NFL Shop to buy the New Era-designed hats, which cost $30-$38. Each month, 130 million people interact with shoppable tags on Instagram, Will Yoder, head of sports partnerships for the image-sharing app, told Variety.
By partnering with Instagram, the NFL can reach millions of football fans and leverage the publicity for the draft into a "shoppable moment" that generates revenue. The NFL's specially made draft hats have become a cultural phenomenon that invite almost as much discussion as the annual selection of new players itself. Almost every sports media outlet either runs opinion columns that rank the hats from best design to worst, or reports about how much fans hate them.
For the NFL, the draft has become a way to fill the off-season void of news coverage and to get football fans excited for the upcoming season. Media coverage of the draft was once limited to one cable channel, but the NFL has put more marketing muscle into organizing the player selection process into a weekend-long festival that draws a larger audience and brand sponsorships. Bridgestone, Bud Light, FedEx, Lowe's, Mars, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Sleep Number, Verizon and Visa are among the brands sponsoring this year's draft.
Instagram isn't paying the NFL to participate as a draft sponsor, Variety reported. Executives from Facebook and the NFL met at the Super Bowl in February to discuss how they could collaborate. Those conversations culminated in the idea for a shoppable draft day that capitalizes on consumers' growing use of smartphones while watching TV, known as second-screening.
While Instagram users who want to buy the hats will be directed to the NFL Shop website, the image-sharing app is working on a native shopping system that lets users stay on the platform. Instagram last month started a closed beta test of Checkout on Instagram, a feature that lets mobile users complete and track purchases without leaving the app. Adidas, Nike, H&M, Uniqlo, Zara and Warby Parker are among the more than 20 brands participating in the test. The app in September expanded shopping across Stories, which strings together multiple images in a single post, after first testing the service in June, highlighting how brands and platforms are experimenting with creative ways to drive sales and make shopping more seamless for tech-savvy consumers.