Following the departure of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis, the city of Baltimore had been without a professional football franchise for over fifteen years. With many fans still upset by the team’s departure the Baltimore Ravens looked to develop a brand that aligned themselves with the community and the citizens of Baltimore. As many expansion teams face, the Ravens were forced to build a team from the NFL Draft and players released from other teams. Rather than look at this as a negative, they looked at their roster and players as a way to reach out to the community and build a gameday experience that invited the fans to be part of the team introductions.
The Baltimore Ravens were fortunate to draft one of the NFL's most recognizable players in Ray Lewis, but still struggled to have the stands full at kickoff. With the help of Ray Lewis and Image Engineering, the Baltimore Ravens developed what has become known around the league as “Ravens Tunnel” which in-turn has led to the creation of the “Countdown to Kickoff” and “Ravenstown” campaigns.
The Baltimore Ravens face stiff competition from a variety of professional sports teams including the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Wizards, and the Washington Capitals. The Baltimore/Washington market is very competitive and one with great loyalty, therefore the challenge of the Ravens was to penetrate an already tight market with an expansion team made up of only a few well known players.
The goal of the Ravens was to create a brand that aligned the city with the team and create an excitement and signature event unique to the market, and one that would develop a tradition for the fans and the players. The Ravens organization and the players recognized the importance of investing in a gameday environment that could not be duplicated by the surrounding competition.
The strategy to create this brand and excitement led to the hiring of Image Engineering, to design a pregame experience that involved the fans and the players, and create a brand deeply rooted in the city of Baltimore. Image Engineering’s extensive experience in set design and player introductions, coupled with a background in marketing and branding campaigns led to the creation of the “Ravens Tunnel” the “Countdown to Kickoff” and “Ravenstown” campaigns.
While most teams focus strictly on fireworks as a way to introduce the team, Image Engineering looked to create a platform to showcase the players’ personalities and make the team introduction part of the gameday experience. The result was the creation of a customized set-piece featuring LED eyes that light up, and a fog curtain signaling to the fans that their team was ready to take the field. In addition to the set piece, flames and CO2 units are combined with fireworks as each starter is announced. This electric atmosphere is highlighted by individual dance and pregame rituals brought by the players and now replicated by the fans in the stands.
The player introductions have become so popular this set piece has been used by the Ravens outside of the stadium at game watch parties and used for community service events to help brand the team and recruit new fans.
The Baltimore Ravens have become the most popular team in the city recording sellouts for every game at M&T Bank Stadium. Forbes has ranked the Ravens, an expansion team 12 years ago, as the #10 most valuable NFL franchise, and Sports Illustrated ranked the Ravens as the #5 best NFL gameday atmosphere. Fans who once showed up midway through the first quarter, now hustle to their seats to watch the Ravens take the field. Even opposing fans make an effort to see the pregame introductions at M&T Bank Stadium. The team introductions have also allowed the Ravens to generate revenue by incorporating Geico as a corporate sponsor to the team entrance tunnel. This signage has become extremely valuable inventory due to the number of television shots and photographs taken of the player entrance.
In addition to creating revenue and an electric gameday atmosphere, the Ravens have captivated a city and developed a brand identity that fans are proud of. This was evident by the numerous calls to Image Engineering to project images and light up city buildings in support of the team. The Ravens investment in gameday production has helped them develop a culture of loyal fans for years to come.