Packers’ Murphy says team looking to Milwaukee for corporate support

MILWAUKEE — Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy says the franchise plans to establish a marketing office in Milwaukee to court new corporate sponsors.

Murphy told an MMAC breakfast that the move makes sense, given the high number of fans and Packer shareholders in the city. He said the 2011 stock sale, the fifth in the team’s history, is responsible for a sizable $60 million of the privately funded $300 million stadium renovation set for completion this summer.

“Our timing was really good … we were the defending world champions, and when the stock sale went online we were 13-0,” Murphy said. “We budgeted for around $20 million … and we were blown away.”

The upgrades are part of a strategy of fan engagement Murphy credits with taking the team from the bottom quadrant of revenue to ninth in the NFL. Updates include 7,000 new seats he said generate the sales equivalent of an additional home game each season, new gates to ease entry and exit, and expanded multi-purpose facilities intended to draw visitors year-round.

Although games at Lambeau consistently sell out, Murphy said other teams in the league are struggling to keep attendance high in the face of an increasingly immersive home experience. He said updating the Green Bay facility, the league’s third largest, will help to continue enticing fans away from their HD flat screens for home games.

Despite the competition for ticket sales, Murphy said the league will increase television options in the upcoming season, splitting broadcasts of Thursday night games between CBS and the NFL Network.

“The popularity of the NFL on TV is so strong now, the ratings really dwarf … any other property on TV,” Murphy said. “Football, and other sports, is one of the few things that people want to watch live anymore and advertisers are willing to pay a premium.”

Murphy said NFL games made up 34 of the 35 highest rated broadcasts last year.

While the popularity of football remains high, the sport has taken criticism over the traumatic brain injuries seen in some players, and youth involvement has declined. Murphy, a member of the league’s Rules Committee, blamed an increase in the use of helmets in tackling for the high rate of concussions.

The NFL recently reached a nearly $1 billion settlement with players over medical costs and related expenses. According to Murphy, the settlement is a relief to the league. He said he would like to see rule changes that reduce the risk of similar injuries in the future and encourage youth programs at the high school level.

Murphy said the Packers have a unique community focus.

The franchise signed a long-term lease with outdoor company Cabela’s for a store and hunting museum adjacent to Lambeau. Murphy said the development of the surrounding area will help maintain the economic strength of Green Bay and keep attendance rates high.

“As a community-owned team, we don’t really have a profit incentive,” Murphy said. “Any profit that we earn, we put back into the team, back into the stadium, or back into the community.”

— By Samantha Nash