As the Rams continue to emerge from the debris of a five-year run that saw them go 15-65, at least one aspect of their organization has been trending upward for well over a year. Since his arrival in January of 2009, Kevin Demoff has spearheaded an organizational relationship with the fans and community that places them among the elite in sports.
The Rams’ community relations efforts have almost always been strong since the franchise arrived in St. Louis. Players like my partner, D’Marco Farr, and his teammates Kevin Carter, Sean Landeta, Mike Jones and Kurt Warner did wonderful work by going to schools and helping out with charitable events during their careers.
But the new Rams, since Demoff’s arrival, have taken it to a new level. Not only are players and coaches heavily involved in St. Louis, but the entire organization is. Since June of 2009, the entire Rams office has taken off a day each month for volunteer work. Whether it’s with non-profit groups, women’s shelters, helping out in Joplin after the tornado there or building playgrounds in the St. Louis area, there’s something each month for which Rams employees volunteer.
Beyond their work in the community, the Rams under Demoff have made huge strides to engage their season-ticket holders. For the second year in a row, the Rams held a pre-draft event with general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher in which a picture of how the draft might unfold is painted. Season-ticket holders with the ability to read between the lines have been able to figure out which players the Rams will be interested in. The free event was booked solid in less than 24 hours. Jake Bye, the Rams’ vice president of ticket sales and premium seating, recently told Ad Age magazine that “the shift to a ‘relationship-based marketing approach,’ is paying dividends.” Despite a losing record on the field, the Rams are renewing 90 percent of season-ticket holders.
The Rams are the only team in the NFL to hold such a pre-draft event, let alone on the night before the draft. That event is a great bonus to fans. But so was the salary cap seminar Demoff held before free agency got started and the in-season lunches he holds for fans. Demoff takes time to have fans join him for informational happy hours, and he visits numerous tailgate parties before each game. He holds sessions for fans about 20 times a year, which is remarkable in this day and age. How many team presidents are taking the time to meet with customers that regularly? As a season-ticket holder, I can tell you that the one-on-one interaction between team and customer is unlike any I’ve seen.
When the Rams came here, especially with most seats sold through PSLs, there wasn’t a need to market the team, or really interact with fans. The tickets were basically already sold. According to Bye, that’s all changed now – not just in St. Louis, but all over the NFL.
“When we approach somebody to buy a season ticket, it’s not ‘here’s our schedule, here’s our price’ anymore,” he said. “You’re buying a partnership with the Rams that costs $300 – not tickets to 10 games that cost $300.”
Demoff has made the point himself that the Rams started the process of communicating with fans too late. He’s said that the franchise should have been doing what they do now since they got here. But, to be realistic, they didn’t need to. It wasn’t the nicest way to do business, but the team essentially had a captive audience for the first six or seven years here. Regardless of how much winning they do in the future, he plans on keeping the season-ticket holders in the loop and informed, and on answering any question thrown his way – even the most difficult ones.
With the greatness of sports on TV, a sluggish economy and various events tugging on every consumer, sports teams need to find a way to get fans into their venues. While winning solves everything, you simply can’t plan on winning all the time. Now, the Rams are on their way to overcoming such obstacles. They want to make home Sundays a fun, all-day event for their fans, and they want to make it even more worthwhile to be a season-ticket holder.
They’ve done a magnificent job. It’s an organization worth doing business with.