WWhen the NFL Draft comes to Kansas City in April, various local companies will share the stage with the next generation of football players.
That NFL Business Connect program is an initiative that seeks to connect up to 100 local, diverse companies with major event experience with contract opportunities related to the 2023 NFL Draft and to offer these member companies professional networking and development programs.
Selected participants are not guaranteed work with the draft, but will be guaranteed access to networking and development opportunities.
To be eligible, an organization must be at least 51 percent minority, female, veteran or LGBTQ+ owned and certified. The company must also have a physical office and have been operating in Kansas City, Missouri since April 2019 or earlier.
click here to see a full list of eligibility requirements.
That application The closing date for entries is October 7th.
The NFL has partnered with the Kansas City Sports Commission as the local organizer and point of contact for the April event.
Kathy Nelson, President and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit KC, said she and her team have led efforts to bring the event to Kansas City for the past 7 years, working with the City of Kansas City and the Chiefs Organization.
Three “pillars” came together to make the event possible, Nelson said: the Chiefs’ recent success, the relationship and trust built between the NFL and Kansas City, and the city’s growth; Nelson specifically cited the airport’s refurbishment, the streetcar expansion, and the Power and Light District.
The NFL Business Connect program works with various local businesses for many of the league’s premier events, including the Draft, Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
Some past providers have continued to work with the NFL beyond the event in their own hometowns, Nelson said.
“There have even been some Cleveland companies that have partnered with the NFL for future events,” Nelson said. “They said, ‘Hey, this company in Cleveland was great. Let’s make sure we include them and leverage them.” So not only has the program been successful in your local market for this short period of time, but some of these companies have continued to grow and have done really big business with the NFL.”
Suppliers and vendors who apply will go through the RFP process, Nelson said, and then the NFL will work with those selected to ensure they are prepared. While the league is considering using up to 100 local businesses, that number could be less depending on how many relevant applications are received.
According to Nelson, companies can expect to be notified of their application status in early 2023, with some industries finding out sooner than others.
The NFL will then work with its new “member companies” to train them on how to plan major events and grow their organizations.
“Not only do you want them all to get to know each other and hopefully make our city a lot stronger by networking with these groups, but there’s also this educational process about what it takes to host an event for 300,000+ people and how to that does put your business on the map so you can be a part of it,” Nelson said.
She added that the NFL will be looking for up to 1,000 “teammates” to help out at draft week. These individuals are trained by the NFL and paid for their time. Nelson said he expects a sign-up portal for these roles by the end of 2022.
The goal is to make sure the draft has “the flavor of Kansas City” — and yes, that includes grilling, Nelson said.
She also stressed that just because the public doesn’t always know many details in advance, people can be assured that Kansas City and NFL executives are working together on a daily basis to plan every detail and keep the public safe.
That NFL draft takes place April 27-29, 2023 in the area around Union Station and the National WWI Museum and Memorial. Participation is free of charge, a ticket is not required.
Nelson, who planned the Royals 2015 World Series parade after attending the 1985 parade with her parents, said it was an honor to accept the challenge of planning “the greatest event in our city’s history” — at least until now the World Cup is coming to Kansas City in 2026.
“You cannot underestimate the amount of work that is required, the amount of effort from everyone coming together to put us on an international and global map,” Nelson said. “You can’t pay for that kind of exposure.”
“It’s a pinch moment all the time,” she added. “I’ve had the honor and joy of growing up a sports fan in Kansas City since birth, and to be able to be behind the scenes now, making this possible for other people and creating those memories and moments for our community is very special. “
Elliott Scott, marketing and communications director for the Kansas City Sports Commission, echoed those views.
“We’re all here because we love Kansas City,” Scott said. “We love sports, but we love how it has the power to change Kansas City for the better.”
“It has changed my perspective a lot, even just watching a Chiefs game, because I know how the Chiefs’ success can change the way our city develops,” Scott continued. “For this design, it’s a national credibility that will enhance everything we do for years to come. For me it is just something very special.”
This story is possible thanks to the support of Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundationa private, non-partisan foundation that works with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create unusual solutions and empower people to create their futures and thrive.