Don’t judge me, but I’m a big fan of American football.
As a hardcore devotee, last Thursday I sat up into the wee hours to watch the NFL draft.
Imagine transfer deadline day, but a zillion times better.
The Yanks version of football is different to ours in obvious ways:
Pads, helmets, ad breaks, cheerleaders…
And the not so obvious.
Like how the league prizes parity above all else.
Unlike say Real and Barca in Spain, NFL franchises receive an equal share of TV revenue no matter the size of their media market.
Green Bay, home to 105,000 people, is on a par with New York and so on.
Throw a salary cap into the mix…
And moneybags teams can’t just buy up the best talent, resulting in a level playing field.
And the cherry atop the cake of equality?
New players enter the league through the draft.
The worst team from the previous season picks first and so on.
There’s always the hope that a team that sucked last year can turn things around quickly.
You only have to look at the viewing figures to see what a big deal it is.
In 2018, the first round was watched by a TV audience of 11.2 million.
That’s comfortably more than tuned in for ice hockey’s showpiece occasion – the Stanley Cup Finals.
Remarkable when you consider what those people are watching – essentially not much at all.
To the uninitiated, the draft goes something like this:
A team selects a player. Said player walks out onto a stage to pose with the NFL commissioner and mutters a few well rehearsed cliches about wanting to get to work and give his new team everything.
And that’s it x 32 until every team has made its pick.
Think about it.
More people watch the selection of players in one sport than actual blood and thunder winner takes all action in another.
Including night owls in the UK who have to run on caffeine at work the next day.
How on earth can this happen?
How can the NFL draft attract more interest than a series of ice hockey games with the ultimate prize on the line.
In a nutshell it comes down to one thing – storytelling.
People are gripped by an event that is essentially dead space because of the way it’s presented, which is a lot like reality TV.
These aren’t just anonymous athletes getting ready to step up to the pros.
These are real people with compelling back stories that fascinate us.
So, we root for them as the drama unfolds.
The amputee who’s a force of nature, even though he’s got one hand.
The undersized quarterback determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
The prospect who slid down the board and wants to show the teams who passed on him what he can do.
The guy who’s mom worked three jobs so he could have his shot at his dream, and now he wants to buy her a house.
And this same technique is one we can use in copy, framing our communications around a story.
To make it interesting, relatable and compelling, no matter how mundane our offering might be.