When the Rams first left the Los Angeles area at the end of the 1994 season, they left the area with sense of a whimper rather than a buzz of protest. Now that the Rams have returned to Los Angeles, are the residents of Southern California buzzing about their return? It all depends how you measure it. We have to understand the psyche of the Southern California sports fan living in an area where there is a lot of things to do.
The Rams do not just have to compete with other NFL fan bases in the Southern California area, but they must compete with one of the most legendary NBA teams and MLB teams in each of their respective sports, each with a large and committed fan base. In a city where there was no NFL team for two decades, the Rams must also compete with two major college football programs that became the defacto pro teams in L.A. After two decades, despite all of these factors against them, it appears that the Rams have created some buzz in the months leading into training camp.
Let’s understand the sports scene of Southern California first of all. Far and away the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers are the most popular sports teams in the market. Both teams have major fan bases committed to their team throughout the calendar year. Other major sports teams in the Los Angeles area that the Rams now must compete with are the Kings, Clippers, Ducks, Angels, and Galaxy, not to mention USC and UCLA football. Rams brass have that challenge in finding a way to promote their brand against other more established brands here in Southern California.
David Carter, USC’s sports business professor, best described the L.A. NFL football scene in an interview with the L.A Times in January 2015. “It’s like the NFL’s version of the UN,” he stated. “Allegiances in the Los Angeles NFL sports scene have changed dramatically over the past 20 years with the void left by the Rams and Raiders. People from all over the world call L.A. home, and they bring their team’s allegiances with them.
You can walk on Hollywood Boulevard on any given Saturday and you’ll see a diversified sprinkle of Raiders, Chargers, 49ers, Patriots, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Dolphins, and even Jaguars apparel amongst the populace! Let’s remember the Raiders still have a strong fan base here. Many fans have adopted the Chargers, who are only 100 miles south of Los Angeles, as their team now. The Rams’ 20-year exile from L.A. allowed fans to catch the best game in the NFL each week on CBS and FOX, a byproduct of such a diversified NFL fan base here. Now that the Rams will be on each week on either of these two networks, the question remains will the fans adopt the Rams as the home team?
There is evidence that the L.A. fans are excited about the team’s return. The Rams will play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum through the 2018 season. The L.A. Times noted in January that 56,000 season ticket deposits were made by fans. By June, that number jumped to 63,000 season tickets, according to Rams COO Kevin Demoff in a recent interview with the Ventura County Star. Clearly there appears to be interest in the Rams heading into its first season, but how can it compete with its largest hurdle: L.A. itself?
In addition to a vibrant collegiate and professional sports scene, there are plenty of other activities available to area residents throughout the year. The region’s abundance of natural resources, vibrant nightlife, and ample shopping opportunities all can potentially muffle any buzz the Rams can create in the area, especially if they are not successful on the field right away.
However, all is not lost for the Rams. Since their return, the Rams have been aggressively advertising their brand in the region. At a recent Dodgers home game, rookie QB Jared Goff threw out the first pitch. Rams players were spotted signing autographs for fans at a soccer game hosted by the Rose Bowl a few days later. The Rams coaching staff held clinics for about 200 High School Football Coaches. All in all, the Rams have done everything they can to create a buzz in Southern California. The problem is that L.A. is a big place, and the Rams’ challenge moving forward is to find a way to reach every part of it. Of course, winning a Super Bowl will speed up that process up.
Sources: Rebecca Sun, Hollywood Reporter, Fred Roggin, NBC Sports and the Beast 980, Nick Wagoner, ESPN, Joe Curley, Ventura County Star.
Martin Cruz is a staff writer for RamsTalk. He is a graduate of California State University-San Bernardino with degrees in History and Mass Communications. You can follow him on Twitter with the username @MCruz1988.