This football season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will focus on the game day experience just as much as winning.
Team representatives made that promise on Friday to a crowd of about 100 at the inaugural “Beyond the End Zone” luncheon hosted by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
Attendees mingled with Captain Beard, players and executives. They also got a photo-op with the Super Bowl XXXVII trophy, which the Bucs won with a 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders in January 2003.
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A panel discussion led by team insider Casey Phillips revealed the team’s challenges with marketing to an evolving fan base.
“People love people, not brands,” said Atul Kholsa, chief corporate development and brand officer.
But as the team’s fan base evolves, so does the technology to analyze it, Kholsa said.
In recent years, cell-tracking data helped marketers understand how long and how often fans visited Raymond James Stadium. Kholsa even joked that the team had access to fans’ addresses.
The team is exploring not only how to attract fans’ attention, but also to retain it.
The panel agreed that rain, heat and humidity once made it hard to fill the stands. But after a series of renovations, operating officer Brian Ford called the stadium the “crown jewel of the NFL.”
Ford boasted the stadium’s new deck umbrellas and Bar 76 — the 10,000-square-foot luxury sports bar, named after the team’s 1976 inaugural season and featuring 76 beers on tap.
“We don’t sell wins and losses,” Ford said. “We sell experiences.”
“We can be affected by what’s on the field, but we can’t be dependent on it,” he added.
Newly signed offensive lineman Ryan Jensen reflected on how fan engagement creates an environment for players to thrive on.
“Growing up, there was no social media to help fans understand and get to know the players,” he said.
Open training camp practices are one way to do that, and although the panel touted the team’s new indoor training facility at One Buc Place in Tampa, it only offered six open practice dates as opposed to last summer’s 13.
There was no mention Friday of quarterback Jameis Winston, who was suspended in June from the first three games of the season amid sexual assault allegations.
Follow Emily Wunderlich on Twitter @EmilyWunderlich.