Draft Season In the Age of Social MediaTom Mulkeen
It comes around every year. The NFL draft came and went in April and will be followed by both the NBA and NHL drafts happening immediately after their respective postseasons conclude in June.
Teams, agents, and companies like Nike and Adidas all do their due diligence by vetting prospective draft picks who are mostly between 18 and 22 years old. Many of these athletes have lengthy social media profiles going back several years. One old tweet or video from ten years ago released at the wrong time could cause a potential draft pick to fall on draft day costing him millions and also hurting his endorsement value.
In early April, it was reported that a potential first overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, Nick Bosa, deleted several of his old social media posts praising President Trump. Bosa said he had to delete those tweets because he “might end up in San Francisco.” Clearly, Bosa and his agent thought his past tweets could be a problem for him down the road and decided to delete them to avoid any public relations issues in the future with his new team.
In 2016, Laremy Tunsil was a potential first overall pick in the NFL Draft. On the day of the draft, a problematic video of him was posted on his Twitter account, and Tunsil ended up being selected with the 13thpick. The difference in the total value of the contract signed between the first pick that year and the 13thpick was over $15 million.
Any professional sports agent or team who does not research their players’ social media profiles is committing malpractice. In addition, for Nike, Adidas, or any company that sponsors athletes, not doing research into their potential representatives is a major mistake that could come back to haunt them.
A Nike executive said last year that Nike’s plan to sign LeBron James in 2003 when he was eighteen years old was the greatest plan he had ever seen with “countless hours of research” and “hundreds of people.” Nike had Fruity Pebbles waiting for LeBron if he needed a snack because they knew he liked them, a detail only found through diligent research.
Assume the plans Nike and their competitors created for Duke superstar Zion Williamson are just as detailed. They likely know every tweet Zion has ever sent and every word he has ever said publicly in order to be as prepared as possible. Research like this must go beyond simply scrolling through Twitter and Facebook looking for inappropriate comments. It is a story that must be told which takes time to build and experience to know what to look for.