The detection and quantification of low-abundance molecular biomarkers in biological samples is challenging. Here, we show that a plasmonic nanoscale construct serving as an ‘add-on’ label for a broad range of bioassays improves their signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range without altering their workflow and readout devices. The plasmonic construct consists of a bovine serum albumin scaffold with approximately 210 IRDye 800CW fluorophores (with a fluorescence intensity approximately 6,700-fold that of a single 800CW fluorophore), a polymer-coated gold nanorod acting as a plasmonic antenna and biotin as a high-affinity biorecognition element. Its emission wavelength can be tuned over the visible and near-infrared spectral regions by modifying its size, shape and composition. It improves the limit of detection in fluorescence-linked immunosorbent assays by up to 4,750-fold and is compatible with multiplexed bead-based immunoassays, immunomicroarrays, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry methods, and it shortens overall assay times (to 20 min) and lowers sample volumes, as shown for the detection of a pro-inflammatory cytokine in mouse interstitial fluid and of urinary biomarkers in patient samples.