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Eisenberg: Ravens Going Viral Is Good For Business

Posted Mar 30, 2013

Pop culture appearances help build the Ravens’ brand, pushing them toward the NFL’s heavyweights.


Several weeks after the Super Bowl, the Ravens experienced their splashiest day ever in the glittery realm where pop culture and sports intersect.

Ray Lewis waved the flag to start the Daytona 500. Ed Reed worked the red carpet at the Oscars, interviewing movie stars. And during the broadcast of the Oscars, it was revealed Jacoby Jones would appear on “Dancing with the Stars.” 

All that came on the heels of Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh going on David Letterman, Anquan Boldin and Justin Tucker going on Jimmy Fallon, Jones going on Jimmy Kimmel and, let’s see, did I leave anyone out?

It’s what happens when you win a Super Bowl in the digital age. You go viral and get to dine on the spoils of victory, such as they are.

Next year’s winners will have the same opportunities, so in a sense, it’s not personal. But it’s hard-earned, fun while it lasts and more important than you think for the Ravens.

Jones’ appearances on the popular prime-time dancing show might seem like harmless, lightweight fun, but they’re impacting the Ravens’ fortunes and even helping transform the franchise in a way ... a good way.

The Ravens are into winning first and foremost, but they’re also into building their brand, attracting and keeping more fans. It’s a tough battle – tougher than any they face on the field. Winning is something they can control to a degree with smart coaching and good players. It’s a lot harder to become more universally popular in a league dominated by older franchises from larger markets.

Make no mistake, there are heavyweight and lightweight NFL teams, and for the most part, the heavyweights are those that have been around longer, developed sweeping histories and lured generations of fans. It’s why the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers are always deemed more newsworthy than the Carolina Panthers or Jacksonville Jaguars.

Even though the Ravens have been the better team on the field in the Beltway markets for a decade, the Washington Redskins’ brand remains bigger because “they have been here forever,” Ravens President Dick Cass told the Washington Post last year.

It’s not close, actually. Even with their consistent on-field success, the Ravens have never been ranked in the upper half of the NFL’s most popular teams, according to the league’s metrics. You just have to accept that when you’ve only been around for 16 years and play in a smaller market.

But things can and do change. After the Ravens won the Super Bowl in February, Cass said it “deepens our legacy.” That’s important stuff.

“You think about how many people in this region were watching that Super Bowl game and how many were children and how many will always remember that win and will forever be Ravens fans,” Cass said. “That’s what I think is most important in terms of the win for us. It’s building our fan base, having more and more fans think highly of the Ravens.”

Winning games and championships is the key to that process, of course. Nothing else happens unless you win. But the spoils of victory also play a part. Getting covered on “Entertainment Tonight” expands the Ravens’ name recognition and enhances their popularity. Don’t mock it.

The Chicago Bears have millions of fans because they’ve been around since the 1920s, won titles and suited up legendary players. But they also were featured in “Brian’s Song,” one of the most iconic sports movies ever. That took their popularity to new places on the demographic spectrum.

The importance of such pop culture appearances hasn’t changed since that movie came out four decades ago; whatever it is, if it puts you in front of millions of eyeballs, it’s generally good for business.

Much like Michael Oher, whose dramatic life story was made into an award-winning movie that still resonates today, Jones is introducing the Ravens’ name to millions on “Dancing with the Stars” – building the brand, for sure.

As relatively young as they are, the Ravens are already writing a substantive history. They’ve won two Super Bowls. They’ll put a player in the Hall of Fame for the first time this summer. Forays into pop culture go along with all that, helping raise their stature, add depth to their history and inch them closer to the heavyweight ranks.

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