SBD/Issue 88/Sports Industrialists

Catching Up With Saints VP/Marketing Ben Hales

Saints VP/Marketing &
Business Development
Ben Hales
The Saints this weekend will host their first NFC Championship Game in team history, and few know just how much it means to both the franchise and the city as Saints VP/Marketing & Business Development BEN HALES. Since joining the team in '00, Hales, a New Orleans native and former Saints season-ticket holder, has been a part of some of the Saints' biggest successes, including their first playoff win and first conference championship game appearance. He also has experienced firsthand the toll Hurricane Katrina has had on the city, region and the team. Ahead of Sunday's big game, Hales took some time to speak with Staff Writer William Cooper from Miami, where Saints officials were preparing for what they hope will be a return visit in two weeks for Super Bowl XLIV.

Favorite leisure time activity in New Orleans
: Spending time with my wife and two daughters.
Book you are currently reading: A biography of NIXON and KISSINGER. It's really interesting the dynamics between them as well as the history of world affairs at that time. 
Favorite vacation spot: Anguilla.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time with the Saints thus far?

Hales: Winning our first divisional game against Philadelphia because it was a year after Katrina. I remember watching the game, and people were still in unfinished suites and it was still very rudimentary. To have that kind of emotional payoff after what the whole city had been through was really something that's probably unmatched.

Q: What has been the team's marketing strategy during such a successful regular season and playoff run?

Hales: What we've really tried to do is to keep the focus on football. We've got a great team, we've got great players, we've got great coaches, and it's pretty simple just to focus on them, and let the players tell the story. The connection between our players and our fans I think is greater than anywhere else.

Q: What is the feeling around the franchise relative to the last time the Saints made it this deep in the playoffs in 2007?

Hales: It's interesting, when we were leaving these prep meetings when we were this close last time the [Super Bowl] was also in Miami. There's a lot of similarities. Last time, when we made it we were coming off of a 3-13 season and Katrina, and while we were all really hopeful, I think there was a certain sense that we were just excited to be there. I think right now is a little more business-like. We've learned a lot about preparing and how we can really go out there and maximize the opportunity to make sure that we take care of this, and make it as great as it can be for our teams, players, families and fans.

Q: What do the Super Bowl prep meetings entail? How much prep are you doing for the potential Super Bowl appearance ahead of Sunday's game?

Hales: It's a huge undertaking for any organization to do this. The demand for tickets and hotels and everything, when you go to these meetings, really that's what you spend your time on. A lot of times we're going over the different hotels, where the tickets are allocated, what services are provided to the team, where the team's going to practice, where the media is going to be, what the media schedule is. The idea behind all of this is you spend a week in planning so that when you get here, things are running as smoothly for everybody as possible so it’s a good experience, not a burden for anybody.

Q: Playoff football obviously is different than regular-season football. What are some of the differences on the business side of things?

Hales: It's just a little bit different in that things are a little bit more compressed. You have to get all of the sponsors, suite holders and everyone taken care of in terms of tickets and any other needs that they have. You don't have quite as much time leading up to the game as you usually would. At the same time, you have to plan a couple steps ahead in case you are fortunate enough to make it to the Super Bowl.

Q: What is the biggest misperception out there about teams that go deep in the NFL playoffs and what it means on the business side?

Hales: I think people assume that there is a lot of additional revenue for the participating clubs, and the reality is that's not the case. It's a league event and the revenue is really split up among the teams far more than it is the teams that are actually participating. All the ticket revenue, for example, goes to the league, you don't get your usual share from that. You don't get any additional suite revenue because the tickets and leases are already inclusive of any event in the building. It's not the financial boon that some people might think it is.

Q: In your own words, what would making the Super Bowl mean to Saints fans and the city of New Orleans?

Hales: I'm probably a little bit partial being from New Orleans, but I really don't think there's any connection between fans and the team like in New Orleans. When we get back from a road victory, you'll have ten thousand people lining the streets where we get off the plane. Just imagine, it kind of sets up perfectly, if we can get to the Super Bowl and basically play a week before Mardi Gras, I would say it would be the greatest party the world has ever seen. 

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