Kevin Demoff is in his fourth year as executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer with the St. Louis Rams. As any football fan, or anyone who lives in the heartland, knows the Rams team is bad on the field but even worse off the field. There is simply no connection to the community. Demoff’s critical challenge? How to get the community excited—even if the team wins no games.
During Demoff’s recent address to the PRSA St. Louis chapter, in a room just off the owner’s office overlooking the practice field as the “boys” wrapped up for the day, he explained that football should be a tradition.With the exit of the Cardinals to Arizona, however, it skipped a generation here as there was no hometown team.
Today, The Rams are now involved in every football league in the area, from pee wee teams all the way up, so they grow up into fans and pass it on. This strategy is not going to gain immediate fans. It’s long-term grassroots planning, including community programs, that will pay off down the line. The Rams only play 16 days per year, yet must be top of mind 365 days per year—what a challenge!
Rams Community Outreach Initiatives
Rams Staff Day of Service is one example of getting involved in the community. One day per month they shut the doors and everyone, from the players to the accounting clerks to the upper management, does a community service project. For example, last summer about 90 members of the Rams staff took a trip to Joplin, MO to aid relief efforts after the devastating tornado. Another example is of how the Rams help build playgrounds. A program started in 2009, the Rams most recent playground build was for “a local town of 2,600, a community with no schools, only a library […].”
Demoff accepts nearly every opportunity to speak. When I heard him speak (Thursday, August 23rd), he had already spoken to eight or nine other groups. He’s out making the personal, emotional connection with their stakeholders—this doesn’t happen behind a desk. He says it’s crucial to speak from the heart via every medium possible, whether that is in-person, social media, print media, broadcast media, etc. As a matter of fact, seeing the need to expand their media footprint, the Rams now have their own broadcast team including a film crew. They needed to grow the brand outside the immediate area, and whereas they used to not even be carried in the next market over, there are now nine states on pre-season now.
They produced a community service video, which we watched, and notably there was no football in it. The goal is to make the community better—even if they’re not winning at football—and Demoff leads them to be one of the community’s strongest philanthropic partners. As a matter of fact, in the 35 years of local philanthropic awards, no sports team has ever won. That is, until 2010 when the Rams were named St. Louis Philanthropic Organization of the Year.
They even started a program where players buy tickets for underprivileged kids—they’re up to 28 players now participating in the program. Recently the St. Louis Rams showed appreciation to Scott Air Force Base, where they traded jerseys with the soldiers and held a scrimmage game. Along with all the typical things like hospital visits to soldiers and critically ill children, the Rams have come a long way.
It’s apparent that hard work and personal dedication has been quintessential to their success. I think the biggest takeaway from Demoff and the Rams outreach program is the sincerity with which they participate. Rather than make it something that a few players do with the hopes of garnering publicity – the program is built in such a way that it becomes a part of team identity on and off the field, regardless of an individual’s role in the organization or team. Demoff spearheads a culture of service that benefits all involved – and it is the authenticity that really fuels outreach success.
Do you have examples of community engagement strategies or techniques to share?