The relationship between the Green Bay Packers and their fans has been one of the most special in all of professional sports.
Instead of one deep-pocketed owner running the show, the Packers are literally owned by the fans. Each owner has stock in the team that gives them voting rights at the team’s annual shareholder meeting each summer at Lambeau Field.
The team has over 360,000 shareholders that can call tthemselves NFL owners. Of course that many people can’t oversee the Packers’ day-to-day operations so that’s where the president and CEO, currently Mark Murphy, comes into play.
You would think that such a unique ownership structure would create the strongest bond between a team and its fans in the history of the NFL.
In the past it certainly has, but in this modern age of the NFL, the relationship between the Packers and their fans is not as harmonious as it has been even going back just one decade ago.
In fact, you could argue the Packers and their fans have a broken relationship and not everything is well in Packerland. The team and its fans could even use some “couples therapy.”
It’s time to face the truth: the Packers don’t care about their fans as much as they used to. The same, to be fair, could be said about the other 31 NFL franchises, but this realization will sting particularly hard for Packers fans given the ownership structure of the team.
The NFL is a money making machine. Profit is what makes the league go round and after the lockout in 2011, the league knows fans will watch no matter what they do or change. They’re shaking their moneymaker for all it’s worth.
The same could be said for the Packers. The team’s decision making process is no longer driven by the well being of the fans but rather that of the almighty dollar.
Some of the decisions have been truly mind boggling as well. Look at the sudden decision of the Packers to do away with Fan Fest, a multiple day gathering at the Lambeau Atrium for fans to mingle with players both past and present as well as other activities.
The team cited declining attendance as one reason for it’s demise (the 2011 event was canceled due to the lockout) but at $85 a ticket, there was a reason many people stopped showing up.
Then there is the reduction in size of the NFL Draft party at Lambeau Field. There used to be a HUGE gathering in the Lambeau Field Atrium with large TVs set up and tables so fans could bring their laptops and follow along with draft coverage.
Now the past two seasons have seen a small and cramped gathering at Curly’s Pub in 2013 (I was there) and no “formal” gathering this past spring. For a team that has primarily relied on building its roster through the draft, you’d think the Packers could do better than that.
The Packers also are lacking in their online and social media presence. Packers.com is often touted as having the highest traffic of any other official team website in the NFL. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but where is the interaction or the creativity?
“Ask Vic”? Has anyone read his column on a consistent basis? All Vic Ketchman brings to the table is incendiary headlines and condescending words towards fans. This doesn’t drive interaction. It drives bottom-feeding and trolling. The comment sections on his articles are trolls trying to out-troll each other many times.
Even the Packers’ Twitter account could use some energy. Look at the Baltimore Ravens or the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and tell me the Packers couldn’t do a better job. How much fun could the team have with it’s fans given the ownership structure and the rich history of the team?
So what has caused the Packers to fall out of touch with their fans?
It starts with Murphy. By saying the Packers have lost touch with their fans is not a condemnation of the job Murphy has done. He has largely stayed out of the football side of things and let Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy do their jobs. He is to be commended for that.
However, Murphy is a businessman first and he doesn’t seem to be on the same charismatic level that his predecessor Bob Harlan was. That could be one driving force behind this sudden gap.
Another could be the direction of the league as a whole. Roger Goodell has shown a tendency to put profit ahead of the good of the game at times (example: the new TV contracts while the actual at-the-game experience for fans continues to suffer) and perhaps Murphy doesn’t want to fall out of favor with the commissioner.
Whatever the case may be, the Packers aren’t doing a very good job embracing its passionate fan base. The on-field product is fantastic but the off-field presentation leaves much to be desired.
I don’t have all the answers but getting rid of “G Force” would be a positive first step.
The Packers are the most unique organization in professional sports. It’s time for the team to treat their fans the same way and look at them as something other than just fat wallets.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke
44 thoughts on “Stinky Cheese: The Broken Bond Between the Packers and Fans”
I agree. But I will always be and root for the Packers. But in a way they are like the Cubs. The owners and team haven’t seen a winner in years.( lucky for us we have) But this is a business and as long as we fill the stands and buy everything under the sun the fanship will get wider apart. The Packers have something great going will their fans and if they would like it back they must make the move. They need us and we want them. This is almost like a marriage where BOTH sides must give(the fans have look at the ticket prices)and now the Team must.
I find it extremely ironic that that author complains about someone else’s “incendiary headlines.”
This is a yawn. There is no “broken bond between the Packers and Fans.”
Hang tight, folks. Training camp isn’t all that far away. Just resign yourself to the fact that there isn’t going to be much to read about between now and then.
Do you think the reduction in size of Fan Fest and the Draft Party might have anything to do with the construction project currently going on at Lambeau?
You know, the construction project that is devoted entirely to improving the amenities for fans like the Hall of fame, Curly’s, and the Atrium used for events like the Draft Party?
In what way does that show a ‘disconnect’ with the fans or owners?
The cancellation of Fan Fest and the draft party reduction came long before this new construction began.
Fan Fest was not reduced. It was eliminated.
Blah blah blah. Whatever. This was a lame article. Normally I feel pretty greatful for the content, but this is just poor.
vic has his own style, that rubs some wrong but he has proven to be an expert of the game and has taught many.
Kris brings up a valid point. I’m not as familiar with the situation as he is because I moved from Green Bay to the south over a decade ago. But, just from the outside looking in, I notice one major trend.
When I was a kid, I would go to St. Norbert College (which was where their training camp dorms were) and get player autographs. I’d also camp out at Lambeau Field and get autographs until my book was full. And, the players seemed happy to do it.
Now, it seems that there are a lot of organized autograph sessions where it costs money to get a player to sign their autograph.
I’m not criticizing that model, however. Each player is a brand, and they have a right to capitalize on it and earn as much money as they can for the short time they are in the league. I also fully understand that a lot of signed items show up on eBay, so the players have a right to be compensated at some level for that as well. I also understand that agencies organize the signing events and have a right to be compensated for that.
But, this all goes to Kris’s original point. The NFL is a money-making machine. It’s very transparent that it’s money hand over fist at the stadium during games and during TV broadcasts. However, it’s starting to infiltrate into the non-game day fan events, too.
For better or for worse, that’s the way the NFL is now.
At some point, the fans will start pushing back. At some point, they will stop blindly handing over money to support their teams 365 days a year.
I think Packers fans already did this when the playoff game against San Francisco didn’t sell out immediately.
I was born and raised in GB. Got a couple autographs, was one of the kids that occasionally had players ride my bike, and I loved it, but most of the time I was being a kid and PLAYING the game or other games. My bond to the team is as strong as ever. Getting “my book full of autographs” was the LAST thing on my mind. I was a kid, I loved talking to the players, but I didn’t harass and beg them for autographs until “my book was full”. I played the game, played any and every sport, including some we made up.
I would submit people like you are the reason players are no longer are open and available to the public. What amounts to harassement isn’t anything to be proud of.
Having to “get my book full of autographs” is why players now seek privacy, instead of interacting w/ fans!
I own two pieces of autographed Packers memorabilia that I won. But thanks for playing. The team has ruined the experience, not the fans though I do agree with the incredibly annoying behavior of obsessive autograph seekers.
Yep, blame me, as a 5-year old kid, asking Lynn Dickey, James Lofton, and Paul Coffman for their autographs. Such a horrible thing to do, especially since they had roped off areas and signing tables set up specifically for players to sign autographs and interact with fans, highly intended for the kids.
Oh, the horror! I ruined the game for everyone!
Dear Packers fans everywhere, I sincerely apologize for my actions when I was a 5-year old. I should never have gone to dedicated signing areas to ask my favorite players, who were in the dedicated signing areas, for their autographs. I should have never given them a high-five or let them pat me on the head, because they clearly did not enjoy that. I fully acknowledge my responsibility for completely ruining the fan experience today.
Thanks for submitting your idea, Stroh. Unfortunately it’s garbage hotter than today’s temperature in Phoenix.
Back then, the team and players were and acted differently. There were areas dedicated to fan/player interaction and it was encouraged. The players back then will tell you they enjoyed it as well. You say they rode your bike. .wouldn’t that constitute your being there WITH a bike, therefore harassing, my bad, inviting a player to choose it to ride? Of course, you’ll say that’s merely how you got around and you just wandered aimlessly over to the player’s area and surprise surprise, there’s a player asking to ride it. .won’t you?
Were you there with Jay to see how he interacted with the players? Did you confirm that it was “harassment”? I’ll tell you what harassment is: your every condescending comment on this site. Want another example? Look in the mirror, dawg.
If you really subscribe to the fact that the actions of kids 25 years ago led to today’s NFL and Packers, you might as well still be living back there.
The league and game has changed as most entities unfortunately do when they grow in popularity and value. It’s the nature of the beast. Hopefully the good continues to outweigh the bad over the long run.
IF I was there watching I would OFFER my bike for one of them… occasionally and sometines got autographs. Been around athletes all my life. If you treat them w respect, don’t beg or harrass for autographs they’ll appreciate it and sometimes spend few min talking w you.
I live in phx area and its actually a nice day. 105 degrees ciukd go mtn biking if I wasn’t working. Thanks…
Maybe I misread your response Jason, but it seems pretty rude, especially for a sight contributor.
-No major fan event for the fans.
-No draft party event for the fans.
-A team writer who has little regard for team history…and is a total smart ass in the process
-A ridiculous fan campaign AKA G Force
-A twitter acct that NEVER interacts with its followers, serving as nothing more than a feed for articles from its website.
-A Facebook page that does the same thing.
Yep, think that qualifies as out of touch with the fans.
Love the Packers, but they would be much better served to step into 2014 and beyond with regards to its relationship with the fans.
Go ahead, call me a hater. Just remember it’s not hating when it’s the truth.
Completely agreed on all counts. Especially “G Force”
No major fan event for the fans. – I guess traveling around the state with current and former players, aka the “Tail-gate Tour” doesn’t count as a fan event. What about Family Night? How many teams have such an event.
No draft party event for the fans. – This was reported by SB Nation; “Packers say the organization will not host their annual Draft Day Party due to the ongoing Atrium renovation project.
9:44 AM – 30 Apr 2014”
“The good news, though, is that Curly’s Pub will still be open on draft night and will be televising the draft. There just will not be a formal event next week as there has been in years past.”
A team writer who has little regard for team history. – Huh, that’s all he does is talk about history. It might not always be Packercentric, but most of us already know those stories already.
Ridiculous Ad campaign AKA G-Force. – So what. It may annoy you, but I can’t figure out how this is sticking it to the fans.
Twitter and Facebook. – I could give a $hit. I’m sure you’ve seen comment sections that go on-and-on with back-and-forths that end up with nothing but name calling. The Packers will get nothing out of this.
It seems like a lot of writers(this especially means you Wilde) just want to hate the current regime. It would fit well with their predetermined narrative of how calculating and corporate(which also means evil in their eyes) the Packers have become since the halcyon days of Harlan. Then throw in another reference to the evil greedy NFL and the antiChrist – Roger Goodell.
The Tailgate Tour is nothing like Fan Fest. Not even close. I’ve been to both-it doesn’t even compare.
Thanks for letting me know what SB Nation (along with the Packers themselves) reported. Of course the team did hold a major draft party in years past that wasn’t in Curly’s, but i guess you never went to it. Otherwise you would know what I’m referring to.
If Vic is your cup of tea, good for you. I enjoy reading his comments about other teams from the 1970s too.
I’ll sum up G Force for you in 2 words: it sucks.
As for Twitter and FB-can’t respond to what is your opinion.
Should I let Jason know your thoughts? Maybe he would like to chime in here.
You should probably re-read Mojo’s paragraph(s) about fan fest. You seem to be misinterpreting his comment.
Man… lotta H8tin flying round about heah lately…
People. We’re all Packer fans. And all human beings.
Please be civil – especially to anyone you are currently disagreeing with.
Thanks for putting into words what I have been thinking . No question that the Packers have taken major steps backwards at the expense of the fans. As a club seat owner I can say that in that section alone it has degraded to the point it is truly sad. Come on Packers- keep it special for your fans and your owners! We are not just ” one of the other teams “.
Great article. Goodell is one greedy s.o.b.. He has created a monster that is spinning out of control and when she comes down it’s not going to be pretty.
I’m not sure why the Packers have discontinued some of their fan events, but I’m confident that it has to do with whether or not they were making on the events and what their liability is/was in terms of someone being injured during the event(s). It’s possible that their insurance provider would no longer provide coverage for these particular events for whatever reason. Or maybe attendance really fell off for some reason. It doesn’t matter, the NFL and the teams are putting the money into the TV deals and other media/digital venues. That’s where the future is in terms of revenue. They want to eventually get to the point that the experience of watching the games on your TV/tablet/mobile device is at least as good if not better than being at the game. And the technology will get them there, it’s pretty close now. 16 games attended by 80 thousand people generates X amount of revenue. But 16 games attended by 2-3 million or more people generates exponentially more revenue for everybody, and it goes and on. As I mentioned previously, I consulted for the league a long time before Goodell took over. He is only about the bucks and most of the owners love him for it. Some on this blog complain about TTs ego. TTs ego is about 1% of Goodell’s. Doing something for the fans will happen only if the league can make money at it. The concern for player safety is window dressing for the public. If Goodell has his way our game will slowly but gradually diminish into a passing form of basketball on turf with less and less contact. By the middle of this century, I wouldn’t be surprised if people are watching computerized players on their digital devices. No injuries, non-stop action and money pouring into the league. Maybe I’ve gone a little too far but maybe not. Until then, Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61
I agree with you about Goodell’s ego, much much bigger that TT’s. Still think there could be a distant relation between the two.
You never know! Anything is possible. Thanks, Since ’61
To Jersey Al:
You have a broken link from Cheesehead TV’s website and from another one which I’m having a “senior moment” remembering.
He has several broken links.
“In fact, you could argue the Packers and their fans have a broken relationship and not everything is well in Packerland. The team and its fans could even use some “couples therapy.”
It’s time to face the truth: the Packers don’t care about their fans as much as they used to.”
As far as Fanfest. Well not too long ago it didn’t exist at all. It ran for six-years amid declining attendance. It was a so-so event. As for the draft party, as Ed stated the atrium was under major reconstruction.
“The same could be said for the Packers. The team’s decision making process is no longer driven by the well being of the fans but rather that of the almighty dollar.”
Really? How typical. A team manages it’s business successfully and then for no apparent reason gets labeled greedy. Unless the Packers administration is extorting the profits, I’m glad the Packers are financially sound. It means they can sign their star quarterback to a $100 million plus contract(and many other contracts) with putting the franchise in peril. It gives the Packers the opportunity to run a first class organization from the players perspective, which gives them a fighting chance to retain high-caliber players. IT PRODUCES A BETTER PRODUCT ON THE FIELD.
It means they can expand the stadium to make tickets available to those who never had a shot at them and they can do this expansion without gouging the tax-payers.
The profits they Packers make, regardless of the source, goes by far into the procurement of players and coaches as well as ongoing infrastructure development and maintenance. After it’s all said and done the reserves will go to charity.
Did most of us like Bob Harlen? Sure, he was great for the Packers. But, does this make the current regime greedy, corporate stiffs, with little consideration as to the well being of the fans? How stupid a thought. Their business is the fans, which they do as well or better than anyone.
I’m 100% with Mojo on this.
“Greed” has about 0% influence in the Packers business decisions. There isn’t an owner taking home the profits. The only reason the Packers exist is to play football.
Are they maximizing their intake? Yes. Why? Because it’s good for the football product on the field (including all of the facilities etc.), it’s good for the long-term stability of the franchise, and it’s good for the community.
That’s where extra income goes. Those three places. They reinvest in personnel and facilities, the invest and save to make sure the Packers remain viable for the future, and they re-invest in the community via grants, charities, and various public services. That’s it. Period.
Also, while we’re at it, Mojo made a great point about the Tailgate tour. John might not like it as much as Fan Fest, but how can ANYONE claim the team and the fans are in a broken relationship when every spring a different mix of current and alumni Packers players, and front office staff, climb in a tour bus or two and literally road trip through the state, making both planned and random stops at schools, nursing homes, workplaces.. Good lord, that’s as connected as you can get.
A team manages it’s business successfully and then for no apparent reason gets labeled greedy. Unless the Packers administration is extorting the profits, I’m glad the Packers are financially sound. It means they can sign their star quarterback to a $100 million plus contract(and many other contracts) with putting the franchise in peril. It gives the Packers the opportunity to run a first class organization from the players perspective, which gives them a fighting chance to retain high-caliber players. IT PRODUCES A BETTER PRODUCT ON THE FIELD.
No smarter words could have been said! Nothing wrong w/ the Packers being fiscally sound first and fan friendly second. That’s the way it HAS to be to stay competitive in the ULTRA-competitive NFL.
Its all about the product on the field. Anyone crying over the team/fan relationship needs to check themselves and put their tiny, bruised egos aside!
A great point. Winning is fan friendly.
This whole article feels like overwrought linkbait. I try to head up to Lambeau Field at least once a year, and I wasn’t even aware of Fan Fest or its cancellation. I also happen to read Ask Vic every day (though I generally avoid the comments) and find it very engaging. If the draft party doesn’t increase its footprint after the new construction is over you will have a point, but otherwise it reads to me as if you are bending facts to meet your preconceived notion of the world.
I agree that the Packers use of Twitter isn’t league-leading, but that’s more a choice of media strategy than of fan friendliness. Certainly their player chats and the occasional Google Hangout are pro-fan uses of newer media.
I’ve been a Packer fan since the early ’80s, and I feel that the team is as fan-friendly today as at any time that I’ve experienced.
Great point about the online player chats.
Ask Vic is hogwash. Put a flashy title out to lure you in and then have you read a bunch of garbage before you get to the title article and then it sucks even more than the hogwash you went through to get there. Is Vic TT’s brother?
Mark Murphy seems like a big zero to me. Give me Bob Harlan any day. Harlan deserves the same accolades as Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi. Murphy’s day may be coming soon if TT fails to turn around this defense this year. Were MM to extend TT when the defense continues to suck despite the vast resources invested in it, it would prove MM to be stupid and ball-less. However, were TT to continue to fail with the defense and be let go by MM, I would see strength in MM and if he were to replace TT with somebody who was successful, he would carve his place in Packer history. Of course, if the defense turns around this year, an extension for TT would be a no-brainer. In that case, MM could retire before TT.
This was on Packers.com just today, oddly enough.
That fan/team relationship is really hurting isn’t it… LMAO
Breeding the next generation of fans already. Nothing wrong w/ the relationship between the fans and the team, except for some who want the Packers to cater to them!
the only thing different about the relationship is that fans (like Kris) have gotten more spoiled and impatient and ignorant. everyone is looking to find fault and trying to find things to take offense at instead of just enjoying the sport. Everyone is becoming thin-skinned and unable to take a joke. Vic is not condescending at all. he is just truthful and introduces lighthearted humor through sarcasm
Not to mention the assumption that if you are a “Packer fan” it must necessarily mean that you go to a draft party or fan fest or tailgate tour or whatever. People who actually go to this kind of crap represent an insignificant minority of Packer fans. Twitter? Get real. Whining about a sportswriter? What sportswriter in the history of the world didn’t have a legion of haters? Heck, the great majority of Packer fans DON’T EVEN GET TO A GAME, never mind all of this stuff that they don’t even WANT to go to.
Some really good points here. I LIVE here. My sister and brother-in-law have tickets and access to his parents tickets. I can pretty much go to any damn game I please. I don’t go because I don’t WANT to sit on a damn aluminum bench and have beer spilled all over me while another fan yells the F-word (both of them) in every sentence. I’d rather sit at home, watching it in HD on a 50″ screen.
All of that is probably driven by the fact I’m a bigger baseball than football fan. But ultimately, the BEST way to improve the fan’s connection with the team is twofold: 1) WIN (that’s it–winning forgives A LOT) and 2) improve the in-stadium experience. The Packers haven’t made it perfect, but they have used that “almighty dollar” pretty damned well to do a lot of both #1 and #2.
Fan Fest? Bleh. I don’t have any interest. That does NOT mean there isn’t a good reason to have it. I’m not interested, but maybe many are. However, if attendance really did decline over the event’s history, it clearly wasn’t something the fans were clamoring for, now is it?
Based on the article linked above, it seems clear the Packers cancelled the “formal” draft party this year exactly because of the construction, now cancelled before and then the construction served as a good excuse.
“Almighty dollar?” Of course! They didn’t pay Rodgers in fan letters. I guarantee you–WAY more fans would be far more upset by consistent losing caused by a lack of spending on talent and NOT leveraging revenue sources other teams are using than are upset about Fan Fest.
The defense of Vic is strange. The man is a misogynist and doesn’t simply use soft-touch sarcasm. He’s a liability, not an asset.
Failure to use Facebook and Twitter? Sure, I get a lot of curmudgeons who just blindly hate on Twitter or older folks who might not use social media would blow this off as “who cares?” but newsflash: A LOT OF THE FANS, that’s who. The fans people here swear the team ISN’T ignoring. Social media is a cheap, easy way to reach new potential fans, to solidify the connection with existing fans and bring the team’s marketing into 2014.
G Force? Personally, I honestly don’t get the hate for G-Force. It’s just a dumb thing. It’s seriously the same concept as “12th man!” but Seattle’s marketed it well. Not sure how eliminating G-Force does anything for the relationship with the fans.
I think there is a valid point. Stockholders funded the additional stadium seating and Atrium renovation. County residents have put up money for the stadium. We (the fans) are and will be a big part of the Packers’ operating budget as long as Lambeau Field stands. It is the stockholders that saved this team in the early days of the NFL. I think the Pack can do more for their fans and stockholders and has an obligation because of the special ownership and backing of the fans. I think the Pack should be adding fan and stockholder promotions – not scaling them back. I am a proud Packer stockholder.
Agree 100% on this point:
Ask “Vic” Ketchman is useless. I have asked him serious, interesting questions but he has never responded or posted my questions. I gave up.
He picks those questions he can be snarky about or simple questions he can answer. His answers are trite and predictable.
He is about as useful as Obama’s press spokesman.
“Ask Vic” Ketchman certainly isn’t geared towards the hard-core, super-high Football IQ-type fan.. his article is what it is- a light, easily accessible column for the average, interested football fan.
With that in mind, perhaps your questions don’t fit the format that Vic’s column attempts to capture. Also consider that no matter how many questions you’ve asked him, you’re still most likely accounting for a literal fraction of the emails he receives on a daily basis, so try not to take it so personally.
FWIW, I peruse Vic’s column maybe two or three times a month, and I find value in it- not for die-hard Packers x’s and o’s insight, but rather, for his perspective and insight into the human side of football and the social dynamics of football teams. He’s been doing it a long time, and has had front row seats to behind-closed-door interactions for nearly 5 decades. He is also from a time when -journalists- wrote -stories- about sports, as opposed to the modern era formula in which ex-players spew stats and break down plays into the camera. That has its place, but I value the old-school sports journalists quite a bit.
sometimes Vic’s question and answer columns are harder to take than a cement enema …………
I generally agree with the article and where I’m really instep is the game day experience. Tailgating is great and lots of fun but the down time during the game is crazy. Watching players stand around during TV time outs and whatever else is terrible. I’ll go if offered a ticket but I won’t pay to sit through that any more.
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