We saw a stark contrast in a seventeen hour span this past weekend as to how communication with and treatment of an owner’s customers can make all the difference in how they respond to your product.
On Saturday night at 7:00, the Rams drew a sparse crowd…appearing to fill less than half the seats in the Edward Jones Dome…while on Sunday at noon the Blues absolutely packed Ballpark Village for their second annual Blues Icebreaker.
By now we all know the story of Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke. The last time Kroenke spoke to the media, and therefore his customers, was on January 17, 2012. No owner in American pro sports has gone longer without communicating with his constituents, save for his comment in the release announcing the Rams trade of Sam Bradford last spring.
During the intervening 44 months, Kroenke has engaged in an arbitration process with the CVC that he won, that cleared the way for him to convert the Rams lease at the Dome to year-to-year. He offered no comments. He purchased a plot of land in Inglewood, California that would suit a stadium.
He worked out a deal to build a stadium, presumably for his Rams, in Inglewood, with no comment, and did indeed convert the lease to year-to-year with no comment.
Never an apology for the continued futility of the team. No thanks, even in a letter or an e-mail, to season ticket holders for their consistent support of the franchise. Not even a comment when he engaged his presumed new fans in Los Angeles when he showed up as the Rams practiced there a couple of weeks ago.
Of course, Kroenke hasn’t shown up for a Rams practice this year and, according to sources, has been in his Rams Park office less than a half dozen times since taking over majority ownership of the franchise in August of 2010.
Nobody expects an owner to be Chatty Cathy. We don’t hear from Cardinals’ Chairman Bill DeWitt II all the time, but when the situation calls for it, DeWitt steps to the fore and represents leadership for the organization.
Remarkably, we have the polar opposite of Kroenke here in our own town.
Blues Chairman Tom Stillman roams the concourse of Scottrade Center to find out how people spending money feel about their experience. He regularly engages fans, joins his front office and players in charitable endeavors in the St. Louis area, and makes it clear that he wants his team to win a Stanley Cup, and that “we’re going to do it here.”
At Sunday’s Ice Breaker, Stillman worked the room and talked to any fans that wanted to visit with him. I introduced my seventeen year old daughter, an avid St. Louis sports fan, to him. He said “you’re the kind of fan we want. We want young people in the building.” Here’s the guy at the top of an organization telling a young woman, who by the way was at the Saturday Rams game, too, that his organization wants a relationship with her.
Now, put yourself in her shoes.
And by the way, I say this with full belief that Kroenke wants to move his franchise to Los Angeles.
But if I’m my daughter, when I graduate from college in five years and start making money, I’m going to spend that money with the Blues, even if somehow the Rams are forced to stay in St. Louis. This goes well beyond the performance of the teams or the game day presentation. What this illustrates is that the top leadership-AKA ownership-of the Blues truly cares about the feelings of its customers, and the ownership of the Rams couldn’t care less.
In seventeen hours, the attendance at the Rams pre-season game and at the Ice Breaker event perfectly illustrated the difference between the two franchises. I know the people in both offices both want their franchises to succeed in St. Louis. They’re hard working people that are terrific at their jobs. The Rams marketing and sales staff does incredible work in dealing with their customers and clients, and are amazing with what they do in the community.
Same for the Blues. Sadly, the difference in the organizations occurs at the top. If the Rams owner had shown the same outward commitment to his customers that the Blues owner does, we probably wouldn’t be in the NFL situation that we are.
Of course, Stillman has made it clear with his words that he wants to win a championship in and for St. Louis. And Kroenke, well, he’s made it clear with his actions that he wants nothing to do with the Gateway City and has his desires set on the west coast.
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