Sports Marketing with Steve LaCroix

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The 2013 NFL season kick off was delayed about a half hour last night due to lightning storms in Denver.  Weather can have a major impact on football games, but how much does it factor into designing NFL stadiums?

Apparently not much in the early 1980s.  The Metrodome, an air-supported stadium in a city with extremely heavy snowfall, collapsed after a severe winter storm in December 2010.  These days, engineers are a little wiser.

New Vikings Stadium in Downtown Minneapolis

New Vikings Stadium in Downtown Minneapolis

This November, the Minnesota Vikings will be breaking ground on their new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, which opens in three short years.  Steve LaCroix BBA ’90, Vice President of Sales and Marketing & Chief Marketing Officer, was involved in the planning process.  He stopped by Pappajohn Business Building last Friday to talk to UI students about the business behind professional sports franchises.

As you can see from the photo, the new stadium has a radically different design.  The pointed roof was influenced by Scandinavian architecture.  The steep slope ties into the Twin Cities’ ancestry and team nickname, but it also has a practical purpose: snow drainage aided by gravity.

The facility is impressive, but LaCroix is concerned with fans’ gameday experience there.  The Vikings host only eight home games each fall, so each one has to count.  Features like WiFi are taken for granted; people want to be able to check their fantasy football scores on Sundays.  Additionally, mobile apps that can show the shortest restroom and concession waiting lines in real time need to be created, because fans won’t keep buying tickets if they prefer to watch from home.

LaCroix oversees all aspects of Vikings-generated revenue.  Recently, this has included bringing media in-house.  The Vikings Entertainment Network provides inside access and produces exclusive content across television, radio and internet.  Perhaps most importantly, LaCroix oversees corporate partnerships.   The new stadium still needs a naming rights sponsor to help cover the costs.

Breaking into professional sports is difficult, and entry-level positions typically don’t pay well.  However, LaCroix advised students to go for it.  If they are truly passionate, the money will follow.  He mentioned that the industry is lagging in data analytics.  Maybe there will be opportunities for this Strategic Innovation Academy hopeful!

It’s true that LaCroix appears to have a dream job, but it’s not all fun and games in the world of sports.  While on a leisurely walk to get his mail, LaCroix was booed by a neighborhood youngster who was unhappy with the Vikings’ trade of Randy Moss to the Raiders.

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