This past weekend the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) held its rookie symposium in L.A. The Fields of Green spoke to NFLPA executives, sponsors and other attendees to get a feel for the NFLPA version of new hire orientation.
Dozens of just-out-of-school new employees from around the country?
Multi-day itinerary that features important speakers?
Lectures about developing a career plan?
Sounds like what faces business or law school graduates as they go through job orientation, right?
Courtesy of the NFLPA and NFL Players Inc. (NFLPI), over 40 recently drafted rookies had a similar experience when they attended the “Rookie Premiere,” from May 29 through June 1 in L.A.
The four-day event provided the players an opportunity to hear from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, along with former players, NFL veterans and industry executives. One of the many goals was to help players understand not only the opportunity presented to them, but also the need to plan for life after football. As Keith Gordon, president of the NFLPI (the marketing arm of the players association) said, the goal was to “show players how to get more out of football than football gets out of them.”
For athletes that come from smaller colleges or those that didn’t get advanced training about how to market themselves, this event was an opportunity to learn how to be the driver of their own brand.
Companies such as Electronic Arts, Panini, and Pepsi used the event to get an extended look at the top rookies entering the league. While each company has its own approach, they all utilize the event to get individual time with the athletes that may eventually represent their brands.
Sponsors appreciate the opportunity to provide athletes the platform to express themselves in their own words instead of through manufactured press statements and media sound bytes. Companies that attend this event are constantly evaluating the rookies for authenticity, personality, temperament and how they’d fit with the brand.
For NFLPA sponsors, it’s also a chance to continue working with the union itself. As a result of this event and the union’s work throughout the year, a database is created that allows the NFLPA to provide a match-making service for sponsors looking for the athlete that best fits their brand. A profile of each player is created and entered into a searchable database. If a brand is looking for an athlete with fishing prowess to help sell the latest lure, the database will find him.
The rookies, partners and veterans that attend the event are given opportunities to bond over a game of EA Sports’ Madden NFL or table tennis in between breaks in the schedule. The schedule also sets aside time for these groups to get together over dinner and planned activities.
On Saturday, May 31, the rookies were even provided the opportunity to try on their jerseys for the first time after arriving at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for photo shoots.
The four-day affair is both an introduction to the business of football and a chance for the NFLPA to display the power and benefits that come from being part of the union.
And just like any other orientation, after it was over, each player headed back to his new assignment with a better understanding of how to manage his career.