Fun job: Firing up Packers fans, players
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of profiles about the leadership of the Green Bay Packers and how business is managed at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
GREEN BAY - When Green Bay Packers gather at the end of the players' tunnel Sunday to go onto Lambeau Field, lights will go out and music will crank up to helmet-thumping levels. A large Packers "G" will be projected onto the concrete floor of the tunnel. There will be shouting and straining at the leash.
And Gabrielle Valdez Dow will be happy. Dow, vice president of marketing and fan engagement, is responsible for a lot of functions at Lambeau Field, but the send-off for players is one that obviously pleases her.
"The goal is for them to feel invigorated and to feel like I'm going to go kick some butt on the field and this is a great start to my game," said Dow, who worked with the Packers coaching staff to orchestrate the 90-second adrenaline rush presented before each home game.
"Coach (Mike) McCarthy wanted the players to feel the fans' energy because the players feed off our fans," she said. "Understanding our brand, our long traditions, our history, we kind of dived into what we could do to engage the players that would then engage the fans, and vice versa."
Firing up players is one aspect of Dow's regular responsibilities, which include overseeing the Packers Pro Shop; digital operations, including the website, social media and broadcasting; game presentation and other events in the bowl; and branding and marketing, which includes research and analytics, fan engagement, graphics, design and production.
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"Those kinds of things, they seem kind of like small potatoes, but the players love it, the coaching staff loves it," Dow said of the pre-game energizer. "I've seen other teams, where they're walking through and there's fans watching them, and I think that's great and fine, but for us we are going to do it a little differently."
Since joining the Packers in 2014, Dow guided other changes to game-day operations, specifically the programming of the Lambeau Field video boards, which now operate in sync with television production, under the direction of Kandi Goltz, manager of game and fan development. The game's video presentations are now scripted, with no downtime while waiting for play to resume.
"We were basically running commercial, commercial, commercial, and we cut it off in the middle and we weren't kind of producing a show," she said. "And I would just watch the players stand there. That's not really engaging them. So we would start showing these (highlight) videos and the crowd would love them. And so would the players."
The videos themselves are designed to remind players and fans about what it means to be part of the Packers, and not unintentionally, to remind the opposing players as well.
"I want to remind (the players) what they can do. I want to continue to inspire them. The videos are usually hard-hitting, fast, loud; they're on defense and offense and they're usually really cool plays," she said.
Dow began her career as an intern for the Portland Trailblazers NBA team. She also worked at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and for the Florida Panthers NHL franchise and the Baltimore Ravens before joining the Packers.
Her staff includes more than 30 full-time and, on game day, up to 500 part-time workers.
Making money for the Packers is a significant part of her portfolio. Retail growth has been a revenue driver for the Packers for several years, especially online sales. Dow said they have grown to about one-third as large as in-store sales. In addition to the Packers Pro Shop, the team operates a game-day store on the other side of Lambeau Field and is contemplating a store in Milwaukee and in the Titletown District. They also are testing Amazon as a sales avenue.
The Pro Shop website was recently redesigned to make it more user-friendly — fewer clicks to complete a purchase, for example.
"We didn't even have all our merchandise up. We really had to change the mindset that everything in the store has to be online because a large percentage of our online traffic is from out of state," she said. "The online component is key. That's where the world is going and that's where the future is."
Dow's department also was involved in coordinating aspects of the Wisconsin-LSU game over Labor Day weekend, from stuffing welcome packets to programming players walk-throughs to ensure that fans who did not have tickets to the game would be entertained outside the stadium.
Dow said departments do not operate on their own, especially for large projects. Department heads are respectful of other areas, but collaboration is critical.
"We are more conscious and careful about our decision-making here because I don't have a billion-dollar owner that can just make a decision on a whim," she said. "We have to think about it differently because we're publicly owned, and we have to have thoughtful discussion about a decision because it just doesn't only affect us."
Gabrielle Dow quotes:
» On working for an NFL team: "It's a supply-and-demand scenario. There's not a lot of opportunity to break into the business, and when there is, there's a healthy pool of candidates and your reputation and your background and your work ethic builds your foundation."
» On working in Green Bay: "We all kind of jump around. Green Bay, though, because it's not New York, it's not Chicago, it's not a major metropolitan city, to move here is a big step."
» On time commitment: "I was answering emails at 4:30, 5 a.m. when I got up to work out, and then go to bed and we're still looking at our phones at 10 o'clock at night. We all love what we do, so it doesn't seem like work."