Ravens marketing expertise on full display

December 10, 2008 | Drew Forrester

With a nod to the scheduling Gods, how amazing is it to be a football fan in Baltimore and have Washington and Pittsburgh come to town in back to back weeks, playing games that REALLY matter for both teams?

Amazing might not be the right word.  It’s bigger than that, actually.

Having flicked the Redskins away with relative ease on Sunday night, the Ravens now turn their attention to their fiercest rival – the Pittsburgh Steelers, who make their way to M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday for a game #14 battle that could “make or break” Baltimore’s season (and, perhaps, Pittsburgh’s as well…).

What more can you ask if you’re a Ravens’ fan?

It’s easy to get fired up for this game, right?

Sure. 

But the Ravens MAKE it easy to get ramped up for big games like this because they actually understand the value of having their players dive into the community to share in the fandom that percolates around the city all week.

It’s something the baseball team DOESN’T do – and that’s why no one goes to the games anymore.

Note: As I was in the process of writing this earlier this week, WNST listener John Marquette sent me an e-mail on this very subject – but I hadn’t talked about this blog on the air previously — he just happened to submit this e-mail at the exact same moment I was in the process of writing…and I wanted to give him props for sensing the same thing I’ve been sensing about the Ravens – and the Orioles.  Here’s his e-mail:

Drew,

I often listen to you in the mornings and hear how you are critical of the Orioles and how they conduct business.  Here is one difference that people might not notice but is huge for the PR of the respective teams.  Yesterday as I was driving home from another long day of educating Americas best and brightest I was listening to the radio.  After hearing an Ed Reed interview from the previous days game on WNST during Rob’s show I flipped through the channels.  There was Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, the other McClain, L. McClain, Jason Brown, Mark Clayton and I did not catch the name of the last one I heard, all on the radio, on many stations, talking about the Ravens and the big game v. the Redskins.  I thought to myself that I have NEVER heard an Oriole on any other station, other than their flagship talking about the game, or season, or anything. 

It hurts to see the Orioles beat themselves into the ground.  And I also agree that MacPhail has done a less than stellar job.  He has balked at every opportunity to sign a big name free agent.  It seems as much lip service as they put out Angelos is still running the show and calling the shots.

The Ravens have developed a keen awareness that having their players out in the community during the week goes a long way in making the fans feel like the team is “in this thing with us.”  And the players, no doubt, feel the same way when they’re out at night doing appearances, radio shows, TV appearances, etc.

When you, someone that works 9-5, goes out on a Monday night to meet a Ravens player, you’re seeing a professional athlete who also “worked” earlier that day.  And the day before.  They’re just like us in that regard.  Yeah, the salaries and benefits might be a tad different, but they get up at 7:00 am…they feed their children…dress them for school…call home during the day to say “hello” to their significant other.  And then, they go out and participate in whatever functions they’ve obligated themselves to do.

Ray Lewis came out to Hightopps on Monday night to do the Bud Light Purple and Black Attack with Brad Jackson and Brent Harris.

Ray freakin’ Lewis! 

Just to show that he knows how important Pittsburgh-week is to everyone in Baltimore, he went out to prove how important it is to HIM!  And there were (and will be throughout the week) others out on Monday night “sharing the passion” about Sunday’s big game with the Steelers.  Before you ask, I guess I can share the answer with you.  Ray did NOT get paid for his appearance at Hightopps on Monday. 

Joe Flacco gets up every Tuesday morning on his off-day and calls The Comcast Morning Show at 8:30 am to talk with me.  Guess how many times Joe has either missed a call or been late this year?  How about…zero.

Guess how much money Joe gets for calling in?  Also…zero.

The Ravens are everywhere.  Sure, they’re winning and it’s easier to go out and be part of the fun when you’re 9-4 and not 4-9 like they were this time last year.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

But the real point here is that the Ravens – as an organization – encourage their players to go out and “feel it” this week.  They don’t care that players appear on the radio at WNST or any other station in town that isn’t necessarily their “rights holder”.  And they’re also going to great lengths to make sure WBAL/98-Rock are taken care of in terms of exclusivity.  I asked to have John Harbaugh on the air with me a month ago.  I was told, politely (sort of), “no, that can’t happen.”  But, I get it.  The rights holders DO deserve special treatment and having Harbaugh only appear on the flagship station is one way the Ravens are taking care of their own. 

If only the baseball team could learn from this.

For the better part of four years now, the Orioles have operated with an archaic policy in which they only permit their players on live radio with ONE station in town – ONE…their rights holder.  Nowhere else in town can you hear an Orioles player talk about the game, the season, his career, etc. 

And they wonder why 12,000 people are going to 70% of the home games these days?

Meanwhile, the Ravens (who are already SOLD OUT for Sunday – they don’t really NEED the publicity or promotion) continue to allow their players free access within the community and within the local media world. 

They know that doing so not only gives back to the people who pay their salaries, but it also helps the players understand what the football franchise and their efforts on Sunday mean to the lives of the people who sit in the stands.

It’s complicated, but it’s not, at the same time.

We just want to know our players know how important the Steelers game is…to Baltimore.

Fortunately, because the Ravens understand marketing, the players are VERY aware how important the game is to Baltimore.

If the Orioles followed suit and came to grips with the fact that all of us in town actually want them to succeed (and want to do OUR part, also), maybe they’d change their policy of restricting access to their athletes and would make them available to the fans and the media in an effort to once again connect with the players who make a living off of the folks who buy tickets to the games.

The Ravens get it.

The Orioles don’t.

Which one is prospering and which one is struggling?

Not a low blow…just a fact.

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