I was asked over the weekend by Ken Zalis on PressBox’s Fantasy And Reality Football Show if the Ravens were being more aggressive in their outreach efforts to both the media and fans this offseason.
Zalis has noticed an uptick with communications from the team and he was correct with that observation.
The franchise is not tone deaf to some of the challenges that arose last season and is determined to fix those problems.
The strategy appears to be working.
First, the Ravens invited season-ticket holders to the pre-draft press conference and allowed them to ask questions.
Then, the team considerably lowered the prices for concessions items for this upcoming season.
Finally, the Ravens are allowing 2,000 fans per day to attend 15 practices at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills. All of the passes were claimed within a few hours of becoming available Monday.
While some fans might still be on the fence, many appear to be gravitating back to the team.
“We were thrilled to see the overwhelming response from our fans yesterday,” Ravens Vice President of Marketing Brad Downs stated. “There is a lot of excitement surrounding this year’s training camp and team, and we look forward to creating a special experience for fans when they visit practice in Owings Mills.”
The Ravens had to deal with backlash after several players, including Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Mike Wallace, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine and Lardarius Webb, took a knee during the National Anthem against Jacksonville in London on Sept. 24. This upset numerous fans, who took to social media to vent their anger, with some even burning their Ravens’ jerseys.
The anger never subsided throughout the rest of the season. Each week, there appeared to be bigger pockets of empty seats at M&T Stadium.
The regular season finale against Cincinnati was the most disturbing because of the high stakes. The Ravens could have reached the playoffs for the first time since 2015, but faltered in the final minutes.
The number of no-shows by fans was blatantly visible with rows of empty seats in the upper deck.
As a result, the Ravens have worked hard to win people back.
While the promotions have helped heal some of the wounds, the determining factor will be the team’s performance on the field.
Owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged the need to play better to win back the fans at his annual meeting with the media.
“You get to the playoffs six out of seven years. You win a playoff game in all six of those years, which does not happen in the industry of football very frequently. So yeah, I’m worried. I was worried,” he said. “We talked about it last year, and I think we talked about it two years ago, and it’s still a concern.
“There’s a lot of things to deal with. The one we can change right away is the experience, and we’re constantly working on that. There’s significant private investment in the stadium. Hopefully, that’s going to be part of the answer. … The problem is throughout the NFL, it’s not just here. So am I disappointed in it?
“Yeah, I’m disappointed in it. Am I concerned? Yes. If winning is what we need to do to fill the stadium up, that’s part-and-parcel with why we’re here. We’re here to win games, we’re here to succeed, and when we fail, the no-shows are a way of telling us that our fans aren’t pleased.”
The Ravens have also worked to improve the team this offseason, especially the offense, which has struggled to make big plays
General manager Ozzie Newsome has overhauled the group of wide receivers by signing veteran free agents Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. Joe Flacco had his most impressive offseason in years.
The team drafted a dynamic young quarterback in Lamar Jackson, who is being groomed to make an impact this season. He has already created a buzz for the first preseason game against the Rams on Aug. 9.
So, the excitement is building.
The challenge is maintaining that momentum heading into training camp and beyond.