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NFL Taps Instagram to Feature Photos of 2019 Draftees and Let Fans Shop for Their Draft Hats (EXCLUSIVE)

The NFL is hoping fans tuning in to the 2019 draft will also be thumbing through Instagram — where they’ll be able to buy the official draft-day hats donned by the top collegiate players picked in the first round.

The league is teaming with Instagram to create a first-of-its-kind digital shopping experience for the NFL draft. It’s a “shoppable moment” stunt that combines pillars of content, community and commerce.

Here’s how it will work: On Thursday, April 25, the draftees — wearing the New Era Draft Day Hat of the team that has just selected them — will be photographed backstage by fashion photographer Geoff Levy, whom Instagram enlisted for the project. Those photos will then be shared to the @NFL account on Instagram with shopping tags, which will kick users over to the NFL Shop and let them immediately buy the hat.

The New Era hats have become a fixture of the NFL draft, and now the league wants to give fans a new way to celebrate its newest stars — and encourage them to make an impulse purchase of the draft-day hats, which cost $30-$38.

“We’re able to merge commerce with our social platforms in a very organic way,” said Ian Trombetta, NFL’s senior VP of social and influence marketing.

No money is changing hands between the NFL and Facebook-owned Instagram. The partnership came together when execs from both sides met at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta to discuss ways of working together, which resulted in the shoppable draft day concept. “It has a lot of benefit to our partner New Era in this case, and we want to be at the front of the line when it comes to initiatives like this,” said Trombetta, adding, “Hats off to Instagram for making this happen.”

The NFL 2019 draft runs April 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn., with ABC set to broadcast all three days in a simulcast with NFL Network and ESPN. The first-round draft coverage Thursday starts at 8 p.m. ET.

Geoff Levy will shoot the NFL draftees in a “cool-looking cube” backstage, Trombetta said, likening it to the set in the video for Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” The photos will be routed for approval by NFL Players Association and then post on NFL’s Instagram; the NFL also will send the images to the players themselves, their college alma maters, and the league’s 32 clubs.

The NFL doesn’t have specific benchmarks for measuring the success of the Instagram draft-day execution, Trombetta said. “The idea is to drive engagement and excitement about the players,” he said.

On Instagram, 130 million people interact with shoppable tags each month, according to Will Yoder, sports partnerships at Instagram. The average sports fan on Instagram follows 10 accounts — and eight of those are athletes. With the NFL draft-day hat project, “we wanted to look at a major moment that really focused on athletes,” he said. “We know identity is a huge part of fandom. This is the tip of the iceberg.”

Over the past year, shopping has becoming a bigger focus for Instagram, which sees it as a way to enhance the platform’s value for businesses of all sizes as well as generate revenue. Instagram has expanded its ecommerce features and last month rolled out Checkout, which lets merchants sell products directly through Instagram (which will charge a fee for the service).

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