Strength of the Pack
The annual ritual of the Green Bay Packers earnings report release occurred last week, and the football media gushed with declarations the team suffered no financial effect from the troubles the NFL suffered last year.
Indeed, team President Mark Murphy told reporters on the day of the release the controversy over some players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest did not affect the bottom line. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Certainly not anything significant.”
But when interviewed the day after the release by Sports Business Journal, he reiterated that he had no hard proof this was the case. “We don’t know for certain,” he said. The team did enjoy record revenue on the heels of new NFL national TV deals, but factoring out a ticket price increase, local revenue dipped. This means there were fewer visitors to Lambeau Field’s retail, museum and restaurant offerings on non-game days.
“We don’t know for certain,” he said of why the team saw a decline there.
Like many, he ascribed the drop off to the team’s mediocre season after nine straight playoff years. The club started 4-1, but then quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6 and Green Bay struggled to a 7-9 finish. The sluggishness started after Rodgers got hurt on Oct. 15 in a 23-10 loss to the Vikings, Murphy said.
That appears reasonable, though it is also the time period when the anthem controversy continued to rage across football and the league scrambled for a response.
Marc Ganis, a sports consultant with ties to the NFL, said it is likely a little of both the anthem controversy and the on-field record caused the dip.
“It doesn’t measure the passion people have for the team,” Ganis said of the idea that fans stayed away from making non-game day trips because the teams started losing a few games.
The Packers’ Lambeau renovation — the bulk of which was completed in 2013, although there have been new phases since — created a 365-day-a-year destination that has been a growing factor in the club’s revenue. So much so that the team far outperforms its league-low market size, ranking in the top 10 of all teams in revenue.
Local revenue, buffeted by the renovation, surged in recent years, rising 45 percent to $197.4 million between the fiscal years 2014 and 2017 (the fiscal years end on March 31 of each year). But in the most recent year that ended March 31, 2018, and encompassed the 2017 season, local revenue rose less than 1 percent to $199 million, and that is including an average price increase of $7 per ticket.
The team’s expansive pro shop, restaurants and museum at Lambeau all saw declines, Murphy said, though he added that the game-day business remained healthy. The Packers have sold out 334 straight non-replacement-player games, so a poor season would not hurt the club much financially on game days.
The Packers are the only NFL team to publicly release earnings. The club is owned by shareholders, though the shares do not trade on an exchange. The earnings allow a peek into NFL financials by taking the Packers’ national revenue and multiplying by 32 to get total league revenue for the year.