ST. LOUIS: As FleishmanHillard works to keep the hometown St. Louis Rams in-state, it is focusing on one message to ward rival cities such as Los Angeles from picking off the team: "St. Louis has been, is, and always will be an NFL city by every measure."
The St. Louis-based agency is working with a task force appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) to keep the Rams from moving out of the Show Me State. Though the firm is not doing public outreach yet, it is getting its game plan in place.
"There are many phases to this effort that need to be completed before any form of outreach occurs," Jim Woodcock, SVP and partner for sports at Fleishman, told PRWeek via email. "Our primary charge will be to communicate our objectives, vision, and plan when the time is appropriate and ensure crystal-clear understanding of all matters, some of which may be complex."
He added that the target audience for this campaign will be "vast and varied," but said it is too soon to provide further detail.
The impetus for the effort is the impending threat of the Rams leaving St. Louis as their lease agreement with the Convention and Visitors Commission, which runs home field the Edward Jones Dome, expirers at the end of this season.
Media reports have speculated that team owner Stan Kroenke has already chosen Los Angeles as the Rams’ new home, despite the city not having a new stadium and steep relocation fees. Three quarters of league owners must also approve a team relocating to a different city. The Rams must notify the NFL by February 15 if they plan to move.
Last week, Nixon appointed former Anheuser-Busch president Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz, the attorney for the Edward Jones Dome’s public board, to manage the effort to keep the Rams in-state. They will spend the next two months evaluating options before January 28, the date Nixon said the Rams could choose to go year-to-year on the team’s lease with its stadium.
Woodcock is working with Peacock and Doug Woodruff, president and CEO of the Downtown STL economic development group, on communications counsel and strategy.
Nixon said last week on a conference call with reporters that the task force is "prepared to look at serious options to make sure we stay an NFL city."
He explained that the Rams’ presence in the city is "a matter of civic and state pride, and one of international significance."
Private investment will likely be part of any effort, Nixon noted, such as an overhaul of the Edward Jones Dome or a new open-air stadium in downtown St. Louis. He also said any deal would have to identify new revenue opportunities.
St. Louis has a complicated history as an NFL market. Originally based in Chicago, the St. Louis Cardinals played in the city from 1960 to 1987, when they moved to Phoenix, Arizona. The former Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis eight years later.
Los Angeles, the second-largest market in the US, has been without an NFL team since, and teams such as the Rams, the Oakland Raiders, and the San Diego Chargers have reportedly shown interest in moving there.
Legendary Rams running back Eric Dickerson recently said he’d like to see the Rams return to California.
St. Louis-headquartered Fleishman has a long history with the Rams and was a part of the successful effort in 1995 to bring the team to St. Louis from Los Angeles. The Rams have called downtown St. Louis home for the 20 seasons since.
Woodcock represented the Rams, on behalf of Fleishman, when the team moved to St. Louis and again from 2005 to 2010 on various matters ranging from public affairs to marketing. The firm also helped the team navigate the 2008 death of then-owner Georgia Frontiere, the resulting transition of ownership to her children, and subsequent sale of the franchise.
"[Fleishman] has had a significant stake in the Rams’ presence here in St. Louis for some time," said Woodcock. "We have NFL experience at every level, from ownership through teams and sponsors. We’re definitely at home with this opportunity and assignment."
Nixon’s task force did not respond to PRWeek’s calls or emails requesting comment.