Brand Champion: Gabrielle Dow
It’s late Monday morning at Lambeau Field. Gabrielle Dow is perched on an office swivel chair, her hair and makeup tended to as she prepares for an interview and photo shoot. Her executive assistant stands nearby efficiently taking notes as Dow rapidly fires instructions ranging from logistics for sideline personnel and security credentials to concert plans for early next year and scheduling availability of VIP guests.
Dow keeps a calm, but precise focus on her constantly evolving to-do list. As the vice president of marketing and fan engagement for the Packers, she basically oversees the entire game day experience — aside from the actual football game itself.
She’s admittedly very passionate about her work, but not typically this frenetic. On this particular October day however, she’s just a few hours from Monday Night Football kickoff where 81,441 fans will fill the stadium to cheer on the Packers as they defeat the Detroit Lions in the final seconds of a nationally televised match-up.
“We’re always planning ahead,” she laughs as her executive assistant leaves the room. “No rest for the wicked.”
For five years, Dow has helmed the Packers’ retail operations, brand and marketing division and the digital, broadcast and game presentation division. Prior to that, she spent eight years as the vice president of marketing for the Baltimore Ravens NFL team.
“The Green Bay Packers are 100 years old. If you look at it like that, the Ravens are millennials,” Dow explained. “They’re sandwiched between the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers — all well established teams. So in Baltimore, we were actively growing a fan base. The Packers have a brand and fan base that rivals any other team in the NFL, so our goal here isn’t necessarily to grow that but to do a great job reaching everybody.”
When Dow started here in 2014, she knew she wasn’t going to be reinventing the wheel when it came to the Packers fan experience.
“Day in and day out, we want you to follow us socially. To subscribe to our podcasts,” Dow said. “We want you to engage with us as much as possible the week leading up to a game so when you get here it’s everything you expect it to be.”
She and her team tweaked little elements of the game entertainment: music changes, how breaks between plays are addressed as a production.
“At home, you can have five devices running simultaneously. It’s less expensive. Your beer may be a little colder and your brat may be a little hotter,” she said. “So we need to provide the very best experience we can so the fans choose to watch the game here at Lambeau Field. We already had the tradition and history. I just added a little salt and pepper to the already fabulous soup.”
SETTING THE STAGE
Part of the struggle for Dow is enticing the younger generation to connect with the brand as a whole, and not necessarily one individual star.
“What keeps me up at night is how do I keep up with connecting with the Generation Z-ers? They tend to follow one or two players, not a whole team,” Dow said. “To them, Cam Newton is cool because he dabs and wears funky clothes to post-game interviews. They think Patrick Mahomes is cool because he does something funny in a commercial.”
With the Packers, her marketing approach is more of a focus on the team dynamic.
But when game day arrives, Dow doesn’t take a seat to watch that team dynamic in action. Her duties are spread across the entire stadium. She likes to roam the parking lots prior to the kickoff. Her favorite atmosphere is the Johnsonville Tailgate Village. As the game gets underway, Dow is all business. Part of her staff’s role is to assess the volume of the fans, whether they’re energized by the game and accompanying displays on the TundraVision (they don’t call them “Jumbotrons” at Lambeau Field, of course).
“Coach LaFleur tasked us with being the biggest, best, loudest environment in the NFL,” Dow said. “So we had to figure out how do we reinvigorate and make Lambeau Field as competitive as other stadiums.” That’s one of the ever-changing elements of working in Dow’s industry:
A new coach means a new point of focus. And in her 13 years in the NFL, she’s had four head coaches — two in Green Bay, two in Baltimore.
“After a while, you realize this is a business,” Dow said. “You want to make sure you understand what the coach wants and fulfill that. It’s all hands on deck because we all have the same goal: Winning.”
So Dow focuses on creating an environment that helps everyone — her staff and even the coaches and players — be successful. She aims to get replays up as quickly as possible. She aims to amp the fans on Packers third downs and get extra loud on opponents’ third downs. New video features are meant to make fans’ experience more meaningful because the more involved the fans are, the better the players do.
“Players feed off that energy,” she said.
As vice president of marketing and fan engagement, though, her roles extend beyond two preseason and eight regular season home games. She travels for every away game to assess the competition’s fan experience and attends each Super Bowl to study up at the “big game,” too.
Plus, there are other major projects under her guidance:
The organization just launched its Connected TV apps and is gearing up to load its Legacy Documentary onto the apps soon. The documentary, which was a three-year project completed by the Packers’ documentary committee, digs in to the team’s 10-decade history and will also be available in the Pro Shop. Also under Dow’s marketing umbrella, the team is preparing to launch its new “alternative uniform,” which will replace the current blue “classic” jersey that the team wore this year against the Denver Broncos.
The uniform will debut prior to the 2020 NFL draft. And on the draft topic, Dow submitted a proposal to host the 2022 NFL draft in Green Bay (the decision hasn’t been announced yet).
Dow attended the University of Oregon and enrolled in law school there after graduation. During a public relations internship with the Portland
Trailblazers she realized sports marketing was her passion and also enrolled in the university’s Masters of Business Administration
program. She simultaneously graduated with a law degree and an MBA.
A female vice president for an NFL program is unusual. According to the 2018 Racial and Gender Report Card published by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, of about 410 NFL vice presidents, 18 percent, only 74, are female. It’s a role that Dow takes personally.
“Regardless of who you are, you have to work hard in this business. It’s hard to break into this business. You not only have to prove yourself, you have to be forward thinking and always on,” Dow said. “As a woman, you can’t be afraid to share ideas — to empower other men and women around you and to make a place for yourself at the table.”
OUT OF OFFICE
Dow doesn’t necessarily “unplug” like most people do when they leave work. Part of her role is being accessible almost constantly. But she and her family — husband Jeff, 14-year-old daughter Danielle and 10-year-old son Jackson — enjoy escaping north to Lee Lake where they have a cottage. They’re in the process of building Dow a “she shed” on their lake property, too.
Jeff works from home and coaches both children’s volleyball teams and the family enjoy time vacationing together, too. They took a trip to Australia together this year, where they got to partake in a family favorite sport: surfing. The trip, of course, wasn’t completely relaxation
for Dow. She was chosen to be the keynote speaker for a sports conference and brought the family along to combine the two.
That’s the nature of the beast, for Dow. “I’m always checking my phone, always logged in to a computer,” she said. “My favorite part of my day
is working in this business and working with such great people who care about the Packer brand. I have worked for five teams now and this is the first time I have ever seen the word ‘stewardship’ used in a team’s values. Stewarding the Packers brand on a daily basis is my favorite part of my day.” w