Bob Reif, Chief Marketing Officer for the St. Louis Rams was dispensing advice to an audience of Creve Coeur-Olivette Chamber of Commerce members Thursday about marketing during tough times.
While business owners large and small are still struggling to find an economic recovery Reif had hopeful news for the audience and football fans everywhere. He soon could have an active product ready to market.
Reif arrived about an hour late for the Chamber's monthly membership luncheon because he was in touch with team owner Stan Kroenke and executive vice president of football operations, Kevin Demoff, who are both at the NFL owners meeting in Atlanta, about the potential end of the labor lockout.
ESPN is among the outlets reporting that players are tentatively scheduled to vote on a labor agreement this evening.
“We’re working feverishly to get our business back going again,” Reif said. “Hopefully we can ratify an agreement and we’ll be playing football in about a week or so.”
That drew a raucous applause from the approximately 60 members in attendance at Spazio in Maryland Heights.
Despite the lockout, which has been in place since March, Reif said the Rams have sold more season tickets this year than the previous two seasons. While Sam Bradford may have something to do with it, Reif credits the organization's community outreach programs.
Reif stressed the importance of community involvement, focusing on the hundreds of public appearances made by Rams players, cheerleaders, mascot and front office staff.
Each Rams employee performs a minimum of 60 hours of community service each year. Most recently the team’s office staff trekked to Joplin to assist in tornado cleanup.
“That’s who the St. Louis Rams are to us,” Reif said. “We wanted to take something that was real to us and make it real to other people and to the community. We want the city of St. Louis to know that we are genuine about what we do.”
While the Rams are a for-profit business, Reif said community involvement and charitable donations are what make businesses grow. He said the Rams actually lost money in the years following their Super Bowl appearances in 1999 and 2001 because the organization had not yet embraced the community outreach programs.
“Our No. 1 priority is winning football games,” Reif said, adding that they also want to be profitable while continuing to build a reputation as a “great community partner.”
“If you just win football games, like when we won the Super Bowl, and don’t do (charity), you’ve got a big hole in your business,” Reif added. “We didn’t take advantage of the wave because we didn’t reinvest in the town.”
Advice For Any Business
No matter how good a company’s customer relations may be, how low prices are or how good the product is, a “consistent presence in the marketplace” is a must, which is why the team went from working with a handful of local businesses to 140 last season.
“We used to be conspicuous by our absence, now we’re present in just about everything.”
The last two seasons that has meant being present in the construction business, too. Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo participated in playground builds when he was an assistant coach in Philadelphia and brought the idea with him to St. Louis.
The first playground build was in East St. Louis. The Rams then built another last year in South City and this year in Maplewood, as reported by Maplewood-Brentwood Patch
Partnering with other area businesses like Centene, Anheuser-Busch, Monsanto, Purina, Charter and Express Scripts has also helped the Rams.
“The more you can proselytize and get in front of people, you get somebody coming halfway closer to meet you and it takes you there,” Reif said. “It’s important to see where brands can intersect. If you can stick it out and can be a stable business through the ups and downs, you’ll be grateful for it.”
Another important suggestion is the idea to keep marketing, even during tough times. “If you’re not out there in the marketplace, you lose the potential six months or two years down the road," Reif said. "You show that you’re viable, in business and making it through tough times. When times get better, people will remember you were out there.”