FFG: Gabrielle Dow

As the Vice President of Marketing for the Baltimore Ravens, Gabrielle Dow wears many hats.  Player corporate appearances, in game entertainment, and Purple, the NFL’s largest club for women, are just a few areas that fall under Dow’s leadership.  I recently had a chance to chat in-depth with Dow about several aspects of her dynamic role.

Dow, at a Ravens game, with Senior VP of Public and Community Relations, Kevin Byrne

Melissa Jacobs:  Please describe the elements that fall within your job function.

Gabrielle Dow:  As the vice president of marketing, I oversee all the fan affinity groups, game entertainment, all of our clubs, all of our advertising and media, mascots, cheerleaders, and promotions.

MJ:  You’ve held marketing positions in the NHL and NBA as well.  What’s unique about marketing within the NFL?

GD:  I have to speak specifically to the Ravens when we talk about the NFL.  What’s really nice is that the Ravens are successful and they don’t have to sell tickets per game at this point.  In terms of promotions, it’s just a lot easier to do with 10 games.  When I was younger and working for a hockey and basketball team, it was every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  You’re running three promotions a week with five different clients, and very focused on ticket sales.  With football, and only having 10 games, you can really focus and narrow what you’re going to do. With that in mind, there’s definitely a difference in creative freedom when working with a team that doesn’t have to sell tickets.

MJ:  Being that the NFL is the richest of the major sports and has the largest fan base, is it the gold standard job for a sports marketer

GD:  Yes and no.   I love my job and I think I am working for an owner who’s the gold standard, as well as a President who is absolutely wonderful.  I think the gold standard could be any team if you have a strong ownership and executive team that allows you to be creative and do things outside of the box.

It’s also about having a passion for the sport and also a fabulous ownership.  I really love hockey; it’s truly an amazing sport.  Not that I do not love football.  I also love the arena business and the fact that there’s always something going on whether it’s a concert or family show.  There’s a new event around the corner and you get to spread your wings a bit.  All of that passion is important.

MJ:  I assume you utilize much of the players’ time for a variety of reasons.  How do you straddle marketing obligations with media obligations?

GD:  Actually it’s gotten a lot better. With the new CBA there’s clear and defined rules and policies so we know what we can and cannot do. Someone asked me from the corporate sales department ‘Hey, the Geico Caveman wants to be there on Sunday. Can he wear so-and-so’s jersey?’ I asked right back if Geico sponsors that player or paid by Geico in any way.  The answer was no, so I said he cannot.  The CBA provides clear instruction and definition of what we can and cannot do with players.

Dow, with a Ravens cheerleader, at a shoot in the Bahamas

MJ:  Let’s move on to the Ravens club for women, Purple, which I know is the most robust of its kind.  How and why did the club originate?

GD:  A few years back, there was a Football 101 program that originated from the league.  The league was prompting the teams to get women together in groups of 30 or 50, and that’s all the teams were doing.  Basically I thought about all other clubs here – kids clubs, tailgating clubs – and wondered why we’re not talking to the female fans.  So it donned on me to put this club together.  We didn’t have tickets to sell, so we had to think of what we wanted to bombard them with and not bombard them with. We wanted to give them a comfortable space so they could feel like if they were talking about football they wouldn’t be criticized by a man or a husband.

What we have learned is these 24,000 women in our club like to stand alone, and it feels safer discussing and learning about football with their own gender.

If you look at the demographics of who attends our games, in the warmer months there’s a lot of women but when we get to the colder months the female population is almost cut in half.  How we continue to reach these fans is the origin of Purple.

MJ: I imagine Purple includes some women who barely know what a field goal is, and some who are diehards and never miss a game.  How do you cater to both?

GD:  We definitely don’t treat any woman likes she soft. We consider everyone experts in their own way.  But we offer them events that they would find interesting.  We created “A Purple Evening, “our signature event, which happens every year on Columbus Day.  We open it up to 6,000 women, which may not seem a lot because of our stadium holding 70,000 people.  But you look at the things they can do – go onto the field, have coaches teaching them formations and how to tackle, how to throw – it’s a lot.  They know they can come in jerseys and jeans because they are down there actually playing and having a great time.  Kicking field goals and understanding some of the rules and aspects of the game is also included.

We have player autographs and do 101 events within all of that.  For example, we play Minute To Won It.  We have three players with three talents set up on a stage and the ladies will watch the players compete against media.  It’s really like a show within the event and makes for a full evening. The ladies love it; they get a gift bag and all sorts of tchotchkes from our vendors.

MJ:  The NFL has made a major push to cater toward women with widespread events around the upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness month, as well as really promoting women’s apparel?  If you headed up marketing for the league, are there any untapped areas you’d immediately explore?

GB:  I would say kids apparel.  I think they are missing that little kid fan, and especially little girl fan, ages 6-10.  I don’t see that out there, especially with bling-bling.  I have kids that age.  My son will always wear a jersey, but my daughter is looking for stuff that sparkles like High School Monsters.  Where’s the league with grabbing that kind of fan and the young teens and tweens.  Your teens can go to Victoria’s Secret and that’s great, but you don’t want your tweens wearing that stuff.  I don’t see that creative wardrobe speaking to those young girls who like football.  They have to wear their brother’s jersey or a t-shirt from Target.  They have the infant and toddler apparel down, but that’s it for youngsters.

Dow, with her daughter, at a Ravens game