SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40
Published November 10, 2003
Playing a vital role in the successful start-up of a pro sports franchise is nothing new to Jamey Rootes, senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for the Houston Texans, who are currently in the middle of their second NFL season. Rootes, you see, was president and general manager of the MLS Columbus Crew when the team opened play in 1996.
But last fall, as the Texans began to craft their second-season business plan, Rootes vowed not to repeat a management technique he used in Columbus. Back then, he said, "I told my staff, 'Avoid the sophomore slump, avoid the sophomore slump.' That put a negative in everyone's mind."
With the Texans, he accentuated the positive. "We talked about how it went well [in year one] and how we were going to do it even better going forward," said the 37-year-old Rootes, who's responsible for all the club's revenue-generating and corporate-branding activities. The second-season mantra, written on the cover of the team's business plan: "Good to Great."
Emphasizing the positive appears to have worked. Said Rootes, who reports directly to Texans owner Bob McNair, "Even though that first season was as good as it was, in 2003 we are performing at a significantly higher level."
Local revenue is up significantly this season over last, Rootes said, declining to provide the numbers. Industry sources estimate the percentage growth could approach the low double-digit range.
Two areas that have helped drive that local revenue growth, both under Rootes' purview, are sponsorship sales and sales of luxury suites — providing several million additional dollars to the Texans' coffers this season, the industry sources said. The Texans added 19 luxury suites to Reliant Stadium in the off-season and sold them all. Additionally, six suites that had been sold on a game-by-game basis last season were sold on a long-term basis during the off-season.
Last June, when Texans exec Steve Patterson left to become president of the Portland Trail Blazers, Rootes assumed broader responsibilities with the team. He now heads a new entity called Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, the Texans' subsidiary responsible for bringing five non-Texans events to Reliant Stadium annually. This year, Lone Star kicked off efforts to attract big-time soccer events to the stadium, playing host to several major matches this past spring and summer — including a game between the U.S. men's national team and Mexico's national team.
Rootes would not disclose the financial results for this year's matches, but did say, "In total, they were very profitable." Those matches also were a vehicle for reaching out to the Hispanic community, which accounts for 37 percent of Houston's population.
The second Houston International Soccer Series is slated to take place next spring and summer, and Rootes is leading the effort to secure the matches.
He's also now the lead executive liaison with Texans business partners SMG (Reliant Stadium's building manager), Aramark (the stadium's concessionaire) and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In addition, he's on the board of directors for the Houston Super Bowl XXXVIII Host Committee, which is preparing for this season's Super Bowl at Reliant Stadium.
In its rookie year, the Texans franchise quickly became the epitome of a successful pro sports team launch, rising to near the top in NFL team franchise value and team-revenue rankings (around $200 million). According to J.D. Power & Associates, the Texans also provided the best fan experience in the NFL last season. "We made it an organizational priority to be the gold standard in customer service within pro sports," said Rootes, who's in charge of the club's customer service efforts.
During the off-season, he initiated a program called STEP (Success Through Excellent Planning), in which Texans execs teamed SMG and Aramark to work to further upgrade the team's game-day operations.
"We've got to continue to step up our performance and continue to identify new revenue opportunities," Rootes said. "It is so easy to slip into 'good is good enough.' It's amazing how energizing and galvanizing it is for an organization when expectations are high."