Exposure on a Rampage

April 30, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Scott Woodruff scored a few extra points — and maybe even a touchdown or two — last week when he spoke before the Convention and Arena Authority.

The general manager of business operations for the Grand Rapids Rampage seemed to please board members when he told them that a major goal of the Arena Football League franchise is to make the city a “household name” in markets across the country.

Making Grand Rapids a familiar name certainly would delight the panel, because it could result in more trade show and meeting bookings for DeVos Place, the convention center that the CAA operates.

“We know people buy brands that are familiar,” he said.

Woodruff said the Grand Rapids brand is interacting with markets much larger than the city because the Rampage play in a league that has franchises in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area — the nation’s five largest media centers.

At the same time, nationally known individuals such as John Elway and Jon Bon Jovi, along with national entities such as ESPN, own equity shares of AFL franchises. And even though the Rampage isn’t as star-studded as some of the other teams, highlights from its games make the network and cable sports shows as often as those played by the larger markets, and that translates into national exposure for the city.

“The national platform allows us to provide brand awareness for Grand Rapids,” said Woodruff. “The AFL is not a minor league.”

Grand Rapids is the smallest city in the AFL, and a sellout at Van Andel Arena for a Rampage game means attendance of roughly 10,600, a figure about 4,000 less than the league average. Sportswriters and broadcasters have compared the city to Green Bay, the smallest market in the NFL, and that comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Woodruff said a recent story in the Sports Business Journal reported that nine out of 10 Americans said they knew of Green Bay, largely due to its storied NFL franchise. Well, the Rampage just hit double digits by turning 10 this year.

Under the direction of DP Fox Ventures LLC, owned by Dan and Pamella DeVos, the franchise hoisted the AFL championship trophy in 2001, a scene that brought nationwide attention to the city. To commemorate its 10th year of operations, the Rampage issued a special anniversary logo that features the city’s downtown skyline at the top, a placement Woodruff said represents the team’s perpetual commitment to the city.

Two of the goals Woodruff said the Rampage has for its next 10 years are to drive capital into the city and to build the city’s brand. When CAA Vice Chairwoman Birgit Klohs asked how the franchise can compete with the largest AFL markets, Woodruff pointed to the business’s leadership and staying power.

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