Photo Credit: Matt Siltala

Matthew Garder oversees customer experience for the Portland Trailblazers  and the Rose Quarter. He opened the Conference Keynote with a startling statistic: 70% of engagement with his brands takes place on mobile devices.

“That presents a challenge,” says Garder. “We are extremely top-heavy with  season ticket holders over 50. It is extremely important for us to engage with our younger audience. We work on the digital side to ensure our fans have the easiest possible access to purchasing a ticket for the game. The fan experience across the entire journey is key. Listening to our fans is also key.”

Matthew’s team conducted surveys across a broad spectrum of current and potential fans to gain insights about how people conceived of the Rip City brand. “We learned we are part of the culture of our city, said Garder. “We also looked at our brand through the regional lens – and found a large urban/rural cultural divide in people and perceptions.”

Garder says, “A trail blazer is an innovator and someone who makes a new path. We learned from our brand audit we should make sure we are authentic, unique, energetic and approachable.

In the interest of being true to those guidelines, the Rip City brand gained a boost when they turned the food culture at the Rose Garden Arena upside down. Bunk Sandwiches, Laurelwood Bar and Sizzle Pie (all local) replaced typical hot dog vendors. The Rip City Tattoo Parlor in the “Kid City” on the 300 level offers fun temporary tattoos to kid fans. The merchandise area was reset to become the Rip City Clothing Company – a brand within a brand, with, of course, fake bricks for a “vintage feel” in the store space. Road shows to cities such as Tillamook engage Oregon kids and families outside of Portland area.

“We’re trying to show that Rip City is our brand. At the end of the day, it’s about story telling. Emotional response will capture twice the engagement of a rational response. Harnessing emotion is what it’s all about,” Garder explained.

The February All Star game presents a challenge for the Rip City brand. SEO drops, no games are happening locally. Garder’s team created “Media Day” for this time frame and had some great returns. Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein were featured in a video with Blazer player Evan Turner, The intent was to fill content in the social space, which generated increased ad revenue.

With 41 home games, it’s essential for the Trail Blazers to change up the look and feel of the social platforms. Instagram is simple, airy and designed to drive single ticket sales. Vintage videos on Evan Turner. Facebook inspire lots of memories, improve ticket sales and help make the brand more approachable.. “If you can get people to comment in the right way about your brand, that takes engagement to the next level, Garder said.

Facebook ads drove a 21% return on investment for ticket sales – performing better than any other channel. “We play offense in the social space, and defense in the search space. We use search as a powerful customer experience. On January 10, 2017 we got 14 inches of snow in Portland. The NBA told us we had to play the game scheduled for the following day. We were able to exchange tickets with our fans who bought tickets through us, but fans purchasing through StubHub were not able to make that deal.. We compete against some ticket sellers, so appearing first in paid search is a key factor in building loyalty and ticket sales.”

“The “set it and forget it” approach is an atrocity in search,” Garder warns. . He recommends checking all your social channels daily, as well as the brands of your competitors. “We measure every aspect of customer experience.We conduct post-game customer surveys within 24 hours of every game. We use free tickets as an incentive.”







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