Friday, September 13, 2013
Vikings: Brand-building in London
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings gathered people from across the organization, including team vice president Lester Bagley and general manager Rick Spielman, on Friday to talk about all the preparations for their trip to London this month.
There were plenty of interesting factoids about plans for the trip (the Gjallarhorn is coming, as are some American TV channels for players' hotel rooms and training table staples like Southern spices and Bisquick for breakfast biscuits; the inflatable Viking ship is staying home). But I wanted to focus briefly on a question that some of you have been asking today, and one I had a chance to talk with Bagley about after the presentation: Why are the Vikings giving up a home game in the first place if their share of game revenues won't exceed what they'd make at the Metrodome?
Bagley dispelled the notion on Friday that the trip will be a financial windfall for the team, pointing out that the game is technically a NFL event, and the league will reimburse the team for its average revenue for one game this season. But the appeal of a trip like this, from a business perspective, stems more from the marketing opportunities than the direct cash the team will make from the game.
According to Bagley, the Vikings have sold more tickets than any team in the seven-year history of the NFL's International Series, and as the home team, they've produced a 10-episode series on Sky Sports (the British network that will air the game) introducing British fans to the team. It's tough for the Vikings to get much more popular in Minnesota, but if they have a chance to woo some fans in a new (and affluent) market, it could give them a boost -- especially heading into two years where they might see a dip in their revenues playing at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
"It's an opportunity to expand our brand, and to provide a great experience for our fans," Bagley said, "and to be a team player for the NFL (by hosting a game in the series)."
The teams that have played home games in London in recent years -- St. Louis, Jacksonville, San Diego, etc. -- have largely been ones whose home-game revenues likely aren't as high as other teams in the league; in other words, they're teams with less to lose by moving a game overseas. Bagley didn't necessarily support that theory when I floated it by him today, but he did reiterate that the Vikings were in talks with the NFL about a deal to play games in London for three straight years, and wound up revising it to a one-year deal when the Jaguars agreed to move a home game to Wembley Stadium for each of the next four seasons.
The Vikings will have the opportunity to go back to London the next two seasons while they're at TCF Bank Stadium, though they'll have to make the decision whether the trip is worth it from a financial, logistical and competitive perspective. But if you're looking for a business incentive behind this trip, focus more on the marketing potential than the direct boost to the Vikings' bottom line from the game.