Philadelphia was attracting tons of national attention (and heat – 80 degrees in April!) this weekend as it hosted the 75th annual NFL Draft. Closing the Ben Franklin parkway to create the first ever outdoor draft experience, Philadelphians and draft fanatics could interact with NFL stars, take pictures with the famed Lombardi trophy, and snag multiple free samples from Skittles, Campbell’s and Oikos. There was tons to do for football fans with a strong investment in new players for their team and parents who wanted their 14 and under children to work off some of the sugar rush they gained from the free Skittles alike.
After hearing the expected attendance numbers and the grumblings from previous Pope visit participants, I was expecting security lines to be long and move at a snail like pace. Surprisingly, the NFL Draft team had properly prepared for the influx of visitors and had security entrances and exits in multiple locations, with the major 16 gate set up occurring at 20th street. Lines ranged from empty to five people and a stroller so it was incredibly simple to gain entry. The security line at 20th was about a block away from where the real activities were set up but they had plenty to interact with on your way down there, including large helmets of every team provided by Auquafina®.
Image courtesy of Lindsey Thompson
One of the highlights of the outdoor draft was the plethora of activities for attendees, whether young at heart or just young. For the 18 and over crowd, they had combine activities to test your skills and see if you actually should’ve stuck with football after your Pop Warner days. This also provided a great opportunity to make that annoying coworker who brags about their impressive athleticism prove their skills in a public and sweaty fashion. Given the heat that settled on the parkway in the early hours of the evening, I can’t say for certain how popular the activities were but the idea of offering them was a nice feature.
While sponsors had their own trucks/booths for handing out samples of their products, Aramark controlled the purchased food sales, but did bring in plenty of popular vendors from around the city, including cheesesteaks and water ice. The free samples were a nice touch for someone wanting to just walk around and get the gist of the experience without forking over their rent for the month. Oikos was handing out single serving yogurt cups and smoothies, Campbell’s had Chili or SpaghettiOs samples in the small, white paper shot glasses, and Skittles offered two free snack size bags to everyone who visited their tent. There was also a big tub of skittles parents were shoveling into clear plastic bags but it probably required an exchange of money – not ideal after seeing how many kids leaned a little too close to the tub. Beer prices were equivalent to Lincoln Financial Field (surprising no one) but the lines to get one on the first day were incredibly long. Given the heat, you practically had to get right back in line after purchasing your beer so you’d be able to get another one shortly after finishing the first.
Crossing sports from boxing to football, the huge black and blue stage and tent contraption sat on top of the famed Philadelphia Art Museum steps. Personally, I think a great marketing opportunity was missed by not making the drafted rookies run up the steps, Rocky style, to claim their new jersey and shake the hand of the permanently booed Roger Goodell. It was high enough for those within 50 yards to have an idea of what was going on but the large screens on either side were very helpful to see the actual face of the new Eagle: Derek Barnett.
Image courtesy of Lindsey Thompson
After returning home and standing in front of the air conditioner for a good fifteen minutes, it was easy to classify this as a fun evening out in Philly, something different from Sky Garten and Spruce Street Harbor Park. There’s really nothing that brings Philadelphians together more than cheesesteaks and an opportunity to mock Cowboys fans on national TV. If Philly ever hosts another major sports draft event, I highly encourage attending. Hopefully the weather and food prices will be more forgiving but that’s about as likely as an Eagle’s Super Bowl win in the next three years.
Cover Image courtesy of Lindsey Thompson