Rockets Senior Dir of Marketing Operations KEN SHEIRR is in his 11th season with the team and seventh in his current role, which includes supervising community relations initiatives. Long committed to community outreach, the Rockets this year dubbed their efforts Rockets Give Back. The yearlong initiative had the franchise working with a charity of the month and sent employees out to volunteer in the community on a bi-weekly basis. Sheirr recently took time to discuss Rockets Give Back, some highlights from the last year, and the team’s plans for a second iteration.
Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.
College: Cornell Univ.
Marketing Campaign You Most Admire: Dos Equis
Q: Tell me a little about Rockets Give Back. How did the program come about?
Sheirr: This year, we determined that it was potentially going to be a lockout and then a work stoppage situation and we would have resources available to do even more. Our owner, LES ALEXANDER, specifically said, "If we’ve got opportunities and we’ve got people who don’t have as much to do or we don’t have our regular day-to-day schedule, then let’s use that opportunity to get out in the community and do as much as possible." This is the first year we’ve put an umbrella around our full community effort, and I think we’ll probably keep that and the logo moving forward.
Q: What kinds of community initiatives have the Rockets participated in?
Sheirr: We’ve done a bunch of different things. We did basically a charity of the month and then once every other week at least, if not more, we sent 10 or so folks out to participate in the community. We did one month with Boys and Girls Club; one month where we were out at Target Hunger leading up to the holidays. ... Ronald McDonald House is another one where we went out and did some administrative stuff in advance of the holidays. We went out to SEARCH, which is sort of a soup kitchen and we fed the hungry. We did a summer camp here, did a health fair for children who are largely uninsured, who were able to come in and get immunizations and get checked for heart issues, get their eyes checked, get their teeth checked, and we provided that for a bunch of families and children in advance of school. In the summer, we had a horrible heat wave and we’re still in the midst of a pretty massive drought. So we went out and we purchased 100 air conditioning units and donated them to the folks that needed them. We did one event where we bought an A/C and one of our legends was there, CLYDE DREXLER, and we actually installed the A/C unit.
Q: Do you have a memorable moment from this year?
Sheirr: One thing that ended up being a great event was when we did a trick-or-treating event here at our arena. We invited our season-ticket holders, but we also invited 100 kids from Boys and Girls Clubs who don’t typically have the opportunity to trick-or-treat. We got those kids dressed in costumes, we did a little pre-party and then we had every suite (45 suites) with staff in there with candy, dressed up and we gave them the opportunity to trick-or-treat. That was just a great event to see how happy the kids were.
Q: Any charities you particularly enjoyed working with?
Sheirr: The BERRY family was something that moved me quite a bit when I heard about it. They had a tragic accident over the summer while they were on their way back (to Houston) from a trip in Colorado. The parents both passed away, two of their kids are paralyzed permanently and their third child survived with minor injuries. We started a program with our mascot, Clutch, called 10,000 Hugs To Help, which raises money to give to the family by basically selling hugs for $1 a piece. We’ve raised upward of $45,000. We did a kickoff event here where we invited the media and he hugged all of the staff. Our owner made an initial contribution and so did our partners. Then he went out in the community. We also sold Clutch Hug appearances, so for a $1,000 donation he would come to your event. Clutch has continued to go out there and we’re still trying to raise money. His goal is 10,000 hugs. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go to the Berry family.
Q: During the lockout, you couldn’t have players appear at any team events. How did you handle that?
Sheirr: We couldn’t get our current players, but we did get some of our past players. We did get some of our legends out there. We had Clyde Drexler, CALVIN MURPHY, ELVIN HAYES, ROBERT HORRY out there at events. We also got our head coach KEVIN MCHALE who’s just fantastic with the community, and he was at a whole lot of events. Any time he was available he wanted to be part of it.
Q: Do you have anything exciting planned for next year’s iteration of Rockets Give Back?
Sheirr: One thing we’re pretty excited about is this is our 10th year that we’re going to be doing our Rockets Run. It’s a 5K run, a 2K walk and a 1K kids run. We’ve built this program up over 10 years, but we’ve really never had a beneficiary. We’ve given a portion of the proceeds in the past to a few different folks, but most of it was more of a group sales event. But this year we announced that Autism Speaks is going to be the beneficiary, and we really think we’re going to be able to raise a lot of money for them. ... We think we can make a big difference. We’re excited about that. The event’s going to be January 21st.