FOX11 Investigates Packers success on and off field
GREEN BAY - (WLUK) -- Packers football is alive and well-- and we're not just talking about on the field as the team came oh-so-close to making it to Super Bowl 51.
When you think of Green Bay Packers football-- perhaps it's the iconic stadium, the names who have played the game, or the Super Bowl Championships. And even with all the success, winning in professional football isn't defined just by wins and loses.
So Packers football, is it a game or a business?
"Without question it's a business. The NFL has really always been a business," said Kevin Quinn, dean of the school of business at Saint Norbert College, and an authority on the dollars and cents of professional football.
Quinn points out the league was set up so wins and loses -didn't- matter.
"One of the things Pete Rozelle did years ago, and even before him, they set up the NFL to be almost like a collective farm, where there was so much pooling of the revenues that it almost didn't matter if you won or lost. Didn't matter if your team was popular or not, you got the same share as anybody else," said Quinn.
Okay, so you're probably saying, 'come on, of course the Packers want to win.' Sure every team wants to win the Super Bowl. But these days winning isn't enough. To be successful it's all about the money and the business of football.
"In the last 20 years or so with the building of new stadiums teams have emphasized locally versus the nationally shared revenues," explained Quinn.
The Packers are the only publicly held team which means the franchise must release it's revenue figures.
Back in 1994 NFL national shared revenue accounted for 70 percent of the Packers overall revenue.
Since then overall revenues have soared more than 500 percent. Last year the Packers reported record profits, but at the same time national shared revenue dropped to 55 percent of the total revenue.
That means more money is coming from sources like the Packers' restaurant, the team's pro-shop, the Packers Hall of Fame, stadium tours and from events at Lambeau Field.
So we asked Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy, 'Is this a sport or a business?'
"I think it's a little bit of both," said Murphy. "Obviously there's the football side of it and the game but for us, you know, the business side is important."
Murphy says overall success is really about capturing the fans and the support they bring all year round.
"So for us, one of our top priorities is the guest experience. In fact it's part of our mission statement that we want people, fans, particularly all of our guests here, to have a great experience," explained Murphy.
That brings us to how the Packers rank-- not on the football field--but in those fan polls.
USAToday's most recent ranking of 'Most Likable Teams' puts the Packers at number one.
'Best Stadium'--that goes to Lambeau Field in another USAToday poll.
'Forbes' put the NFL's Best Fans at number 2, down from the top spot a year ago.
And at thetoptens.com the Packers are ranked as the Most Popular NFL Team.
nats...Go Pack Go, Go Pack Go...
"When they say Green Bay is the number one team in the NFL it goes further than just playing football. It's the fans, the people, the community, it's the mayor, it's everybody, it's the entire state," said Packers fan Wayne Sargent.
The Packers generally score well in all the polls.
"The one we pay particular attention to is some of the league surveys that are done," said Murphy.
The NFL's rankings on fan experience this year ranked the Pack at number 2, down from #1 a year ago.
" Behind the Steelers, we're going to catch em that's our goal," said Murphy.
Why the drop?
"Ah part of it, it's like the NFL. It's a competitive league," said Murphy.
The Packers are focused on winning those polls. Jennifer Ark is director of Stadium Services.
"We want each and every experience to be a warm, safe and welcoming environment for fans of the Green bay Packers and even the opposing fans," said Ark.
And the team has spent big money over the years to constantly improve the fan experience--from expanding the pro-shop, to upgrading its restaurant, to providing wi-fi throughout the stadium.
Ted Eisenreich is in charge of facilities including the massive Titletown development going up west of the stadium that will incorporate community events, retail, and residential all under the Packers brand.
"I think you always look to make money on your investment, but it's a lot about the fan amenities and what we're providing for our guests, and that aspect too. So it's a combination," said Eisenreich.
"Winning obviously helps but having in place the things we do helps us when we do win then," said Murphy.
Murphy tells me he's working to position the franchise to be number one on and off the field.
"I think it all works together, no question. All these people that study the business side, the best thing you can do it have a winning football team," said Murphy.
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy on "What Makes the Green Bay Packers So Special?"
The Packers haven't won a Super Bowl since 2011, but it's prolonged success on the field and the amenities it now offers fans led to record profits last year. And this year's Super Bowl run aims to bank on the new Titletown development to bring in more non-football related cash to the team.
Wayne Sargent sees the Packers business opportunities as a bonus for fans like him.
"We're not just a stadium, not just a team that the Green Bay Packers have opened their door," said Sargent. "They're spending money, they're even putting in a skating rink and toboggan hill you know in the Titletown District. I mean what other team is doing that? It's fantastic. They really care about the fans."
"I mean the Packers here are a big deal, you've been around long enough to maybe have noticed that," Quinn said with a laugh.