Following last week’s Draft, NFL sponsor Visa has signed up Michael Sam as a brand ambassador as he becomes the league’s first openly gay player.
Visa, the NFL’s payments partner since 1995, launched its first spot featuring Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year (from the University of Missouri), on the day of the Draft itself.
The message of the commercial, part of the brand’s ongoing’ ‘Everywhere’ marketing programme, focuses on Sam’s skills and a voiceover urges viewers to judge him for his play on the field.
The spot, which was directed by Daniel Garcia and developed with Visa’s agency MRY NY, debuted during the first day of the 2014 Primetime NFL Draft.
Sam, who came out in February, was selected on the third day of the NFL draft by the St Louis Rams.
It is part of Visa’s NFL Draft activation initiative running under the title ‘NFL Draft Stories’ – which also includes a spot focusing on fellow draftee Greg Robinson’s story,
Robinson was also drafted by the St Louis Rams, but, despite his considerable higher draft position, it is the Sam spot (and his story) that has received more PR coverage and racked up more YouTube views to date – 83,605 compared to 9,665.
His profile has been further boosted by ESPN live coverage of his powerfully emotional reaction to being drafted (as moment that has been viewed almost 3 million times on YouTube).
Sam’s agent Cameron Weiss outlines that they have been ‘really selective in trying to find the right partners’
Visa felt Sam’s ‘story was a great fit for its umbrella “everywhere” marketing platform which aims to inspire people to reach their personal goals.
‘We felt that Michael’s story was a perfect fit for our “Everywhere” campaign, which is meant to inspire people to reach their own aspirations,’ comments Visa’s chief marketing officer Kevin Burke.
‘We wish Michael the best on and off the field as he embarks on the next chapter of his life.’
Brand reaction to and support of the Michael Sam story follows a similar path to that taken last year when Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the NBA.
Collins received public messages of support from a wide range of places – stretching from Barak Obama’s White House and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant to brands like JetBlue and commercial partners such as Nike.
It has been a significant and ground breaking year for brands activating around equal rights issues and LGB causes in the sports space – both from official sponsors, commercial partners and ambushers.
Of course, nowhere did the issue gain a higher profile than in activation and ambush work around this year’s Winter Olympics.
See our ‘Equality Dominates Sochi Sponsor & Ambush Work’ chapter in February’s Monthly Review.
Visa ‘NFL Draft Stories – Michael Sam’ TVC YouTube
Visa ‘NFL Draft Stories’ YouTube
Visa Brand Ambassador Press Release
VISA NFL Sponsorship Website
Michael Sam Twitter
NFL Draft Website