Sunday, July 20, 2008

Raiders HQ brings out the posse

I don't know why but my Google Reader was displaying what at first appeared to be a mundane article on However, a closer look at the article was more revealing. A whole posse of Raider players, Raider coaches, Raider legends, executives, staff AND the 3 Lombardi trophies had arrived at... a business park in San Ramon, California for a catered gathering that included a business presentation of some variety by the Raiders.

"The Oakland Raiders recently welcomed over 70 chief executives and company presidents operating in Bishop Ranch Business Park to an evening event focused on business to business operations."

Hmmmmm...."business to business operations." Maybe they do a lot of these types of events so this particular one may not be unique at all. Still, I could not help notice the names in attendance:

Fred Biletnikoff
Jim Otto
Amy Trask (CEO)
Rob Ryan (Defensive Coordinator)
Greg Knapp (Offensive Coordinator)
Don Martindale (Linebackers coach)
Darren McFadden (Runnig back)
Ricky Brown (Linebacker, special teams
Jon Alston (Linebacker, special teams)
Oren O'Neal (Fullback)
HQ staffers
3 Lombardi trophies with beefy security team

That is a lot of payroll and hardware to bring out. This had to be some sort of pitch for sponsorships and/or ticket sales. Bringing out the Lombardi trophies, that says something. I'd say there's a big fish in there somewhere to go through that effort. Perhaps the pitch was not just for any ticket sales but luxury suite sales which have been notoriously hard to sell at McAfee Coliseum for Raider games. The challenge is Oakland has tremendous historical value as an NFL franchise but in reality, deep pocketed fans tend to be more finicky with their entertainment dollars. You have to be a REALLY big Raiders fan and rich to pay for a luxury suite. I don't know what it costs but it would have to be a few grand and who spends that on a football game. I wonder if any blinged out Oakland gangstas book those suites. Or maybe they are screened out. You have to depend on local businesses to buy those tickets and use them as perks in their operations.

No matter what window dressing the topic is given, the main problem with the Raiders is they are not as popular in the Bay Area (or Silicon Valley in particular ) with affluent football fans as the San Francisco 49ers. That is the elephant in the room. Rich football fans in the bay area tend to be in the art and wine crowd and lean towards following the 49ers or local college football like Cal or Stanford. The Raiders are a blue collar team representing a blue collar city with a blue collar fan base. There's no wine in the parking lot at tailgates or if there is there are no wine glasses.

Not to say those who could afford luxury suites are not out there, specifically in the driving distance of the east bay and who are Raider fans, it's just a harder mine to dig. The Raiders face a significant community relations stigma when it comes to winning business, namely premium ticket sales and luxury suites from bay area rich folk. Yet, they need those sales to help the franchise compete as an entity in the NFL. Al has lamented for years the Raiders do not have world class facilities. This is Al's vision for an NFL franchise to be able to provide the amenities that are found in other newer, classier, better designed NFL stadiums. One of the main reasons the Raiders moved back to NorCal from SoCal was the agreement that those luxury suites would be built at Oakland Coliseum. Now that they are fully functional and the Raiders do have the ability to compete as far as amenities, there is question if those suites are selling.

If you have not seen the suites, check the Raiders web site. The suites are tricked out plus you get catering. It's a hot date for sure. Not cheap to maintain.

So this business to business shindig in San Ramon makes sense EXCEPT for the fact that they only invited the "chief executives." My guess would be their strategy was they needed the attention of people responsible for spending money. The theory goes in business it flows from the top down but I think they would have better luck pitching higher priced tickets to tech workers with expendable income, not just "chief executives." Silicon Valley is very diverse and tech workers have money to spend. You have to find the Raider fans among them and catch their interest. What makes a great sales pitch is if it is directed at the right people.

How many Silicon Valley tech workers would love to attend an event to talk shop with Rob Ryan and Gregg Knapp, meet Darren McFadden? Yea, it would have to be limited in attendance and could be too much for the Raiders event planners to deal with but you stand a better chance at making those sales with mid-range type silicon valley types who earn triple digit income. Who knows, if McFadden really makes an impact and the team gets some wins, a winning team stands a much better chance at filling the high end seats.

"Most of all, the evening provided an excellent opportunity for the Raiders to showcase their ability to build strong and beneficial relationships with the business community. Through dialogue with attendees, the Raiders were able to generate a clearer understanding of each company’s objectives.

The Raiders possess many ways to reach a wide and unique audience and can subsequently help businesses grow larger and stronger. By directly engaging with a corporate audience at an event like this, many new ideas were born that will hopefully lead to mutually beneficial relationships."

In the dot com days, when the economy had a huge boom bubble to work with, millions of dollars in capital was available. Bay Area companies with cash to burn would splurge on perks like luxury suites. In high tech, perks are often used as a form of showing good will or partnership. Say a Cisco sales rep was trying to attract business away from a competitor, the rep would say "Hey Bob, what if I offered you and your family a luxury box for Sunday's Raider game?" That'll usually close your deal. But again, that takes a budget to burn and a lot of companies have cut back on those perks these days. Any way it is looked at the better tickets are going to cost somebody a chunk of change that is becoming harder and harder to come by.

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