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SBD/September 9, 2010/NFL Season Preview
Rams Slowly Working Rookie QB Bradford Into Marketing Plans
Published September 9, 2010
When the Rams signed No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford to a six-year, $78M deal at the end of July, they brought into the fold arguably the biggest piece of the puzzle for the rebuilding franchise. But despite the excitement around the QB's arrival, you won’t see him in any major marketing efforts anytime soon. Both the Rams and his representatives at CAA are seeking to manage expectations while letting him develop on the field. “He really is the de facto face of the franchise, there's just no doubt about it,” said Rams Exec VP/Sales & Marketing & CMO Bob Reif. “But the key in all this is he asked us to treat him as a rookie, just like every other rookie.” With many new faces this season, the franchise also has de-emphasized individual players in its marketing efforts. But the Rams have not completely ignored their star rookie. “His face is on schedule cards and his face is on the side of our building with graphics that we put up, but along with our other key players -- Steven Jackson, James Laurinaitis, the people that are the future of this team,” Reif said. The Rams also have put Bradford in front of fans and sponsors at meet-and-greets, starting with a crowd of more than 300 stakeholders, sponsors and suiteholders in St. Louis the day after he was drafted. “Because of Sam,” Reif said, “in the month of June this year we did 33 events in the city of St. Louis that engaged the public. In 2009, we did three events. There is so much more opportunity to engage the public and such a high interest in the Rams.”
BOX-OFFICE HIT: The excitement around Bradford’s arrival has translated into increased ticket sales for the Rams, as the team’s new season-ticket sales were up 300% over the year-ago period as of Aug. 26. Renewals also were “a little bit ahead” of the same period last year and trending “slightly ahead” of the league average, according to Reif. In addition, Bradford has helped the Rams extend their reach into Oklahoma, where Sooners fans are eager to continue tracking the progress of the Heisman Trophy winner. Reif noted there was “an Oklahoma presence” for every open practice at training camp, and more than 800 fans drove the more than 500 miles from Oklahoma City to the Edward Jones Dome for the Rams’ Aug. 14 preseason opener against the Vikings. MainGate Inc. President & CEO Dave Moroknek, whose company handles the Rams’ online merchandise sales, said 35% of orders for Bradford-related merchandise are coming from Oklahoma. Rams preseason games aired in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, allowing the team to run ticket sales and marketing spots in those markets. But Reif said NFL regulations prohibit the team from marketing outside their home DMA during the regular season, restricting the team’s efforts to target Bradford’s college fans to the one-month preseason slate.
BRINGING HIM ALONG SLOWLY: Bradford’s representatives at CAA have been careful not to overburden the young QB with marketing commitments before he even plays a down, according to Howard Skall, who leads Bradford’s marketing team at the agency. “What we wanted to do going in was minimize his time with regard to marketing; try to give him some opportunity to make some good revenues in some areas where he could do that; and also try to build some relationships with some real blue chip companies so they could see what he's all about,” Skall said. Bradford recently signed an exclusive multiyear shoe and apparel deal with Nike, and he also has an exclusive memorabilia deal with Peach State Sports. He signed promotional deals with Sprint and Gatorade that began around the Super Bowl in February and ran through early August, and he teamed with Visa for a promotional opportunity around the NFL Rookie Symposium at the end of June. Bradford also signed autograph deals with Topps, Upper Deck, Panini, Press Pass and Sage. “I'm pretty confident he has made more money on trading card signings this year than any other rookie in NFL history, just looking at the numbers and the price point he was at,” said Skall, who has knowledge of such figures, having previously served as VP/Player Marketing for Players Inc. But Skall said that Bradford has declined some opportunities that weren’t the right fit. “We've turned down some stuff in the QSR category and in the clothing category,” he said. “We've really tried to look at brands like Gatorade and Nike that he uses and likes, and that can help, in the case of Gatorade, down the road lead to a potential larger endorsement deal because they now know him.”