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While it’s a large client base, we’re passionate about knowing each client individually and building long-term relationships with them. That’s why our priority is creating special experiences for them, one Season Ticket Holder at a time.

Keith Ricci

Fan Relations Manager

Boston Bruins

× The interview with Keith Ricci was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Fan Relations Manager for the Boston Bruins. What does a typical day look like for you and what do you enjoy most about your role?

My role is responsible for overseeing the satisfaction and retention of Season Ticket Holders for the Boston Bruins.

We have a team of six Account Executives who each manage an area of TD Garden and the clients who sit within that area. Most of the arena is consumed by Season Ticket Holders on game day, so it’s a big book of business.

While it’s a large client base, we’re passionate about knowing each client individually and building long-term relationships with them. That’s why our priority is creating special experiences for them, one Season Ticket Holder at a time.

Knowing each individually and understanding their fandom and the reason they own seats for every Bruins home game every season allows us to help them maximize their experience and investment with us.

And that’s exactly what I love about my role – getting to know people, the relationship building and giving these diehard fans experiences that no one else can give them – and they’ll remember the rest of their lives.

I’m going into my 10th season with the Boston Bruins, so I’ve seen our fans grow – from parents to grandparents, from kids to college students, from bringing friends to games to now bringing significant others and kids to games.

I never considered myself a salesperson, but my first opportunity in sports was inside sales with the Tampa Bay Rays.

I quickly learned that selling sports came naturally because at its core it was talking with people about sports but learning new strategies and approaches to perfect the craft. It was the best education I’ve ever had in the sports industry.

And I quickly noticed what I enjoyed most was the relationships I was making with fans – which is the reason I shifted my focus from new sales with the Rays to client services and retention with the Bruins.

On a typical day, I meet with others on the leadership team or with other departments, while also being a resource for my staff as we navigate different client initiatives.

My main responsibilities include client communication, client benefits and events, and right now preparing for the season. We’re currently working with local health and safety officials on reopening TD Garden for fans in the safest way possible.

We’re also in a situation where Season Ticket Holders have paid for the entire 2020-21 season and with uncertainties still existing around the schedule and capacity, we need to present them with options – giving them interest on the money they’ve paid or giving them a refund to ease the financial commitment – it was a major project for us this offseason and consumes my day-to-day!

2What would you say are the three most common misconceptions about your role and working on the fan relations side of the sports industry?

‘Fan Relations’ is a pretty vague term, so there’s always some confusion there.

A common misconception is that I deal with general fans and marketing to them – when it’s the exact opposite – my role is client-focused and how to retain them season after season.

Our philosophy is that our clients are fans first and foremost. They were a fan before they started investing as a Season Ticket Holder, so that’s kind of why we use the term ‘Fan Relations’.

Another misconception is that it’s just customer service and not sales oriented. We drive revenue through our service and relationships.

There are two sides to every team – hockey operations and everything else is sales.

Whether it’s marketing, group sales, business analytics, fan relations/client services, public relations --- they’re all selling the team in some way and focused on keeping the business healthy.

A general misconception of working in sports is that it’s easy because it’s fun work. Just because it’s a fun job, does not mean the work is easy.

We have a difficult job and the seasons are long. So, while it’s fun and we’re passionate about what we do, it is definitely not easy!

3Before your promotion to Fan Relations Manager for the Boston Bruins you were a Fan Relations Account Executive. What were three to five key takeaways you brought over from your previous role that help you manage people?

Having experienced the Account Executive role for a half-decade, I have a full understanding of their work which allows me as a Manager to know where to lead them and how to steer them all in the same direction.

I’m able to better shape our strategy and understand their needs – which helps us be efficient in our work.

I also know from being an Account Executive, that you learn a lot of things from dealing with clients that management may not know.

You get first-hand experience on everything your client's touch – and clients touch everything – from the team store and the concessions to the elevators and usher staff, from donating to our foundation to parking in the garage.

The AE is an important role for any team and really gets exposed to all corners of the organization. You know things that people in other departments don’t. Because of that exposure, there are things that AEs are experts on, that management isn’t – and vice versa.

You can learn from everyone. The hierarchy of an organization doesn’t dictate who you can learn from. You can throw hierarchy out the window. Everyone is an important piece of the puzzle and has insight on things you may not.

As an Account Executive, I had roughly 700 clients, which means I dealt with a lot of different people with different personalities and backgrounds. So that was a good crash course on how to approach and converse with different people – which you need to manage a team.

It’s allowed me to manage different personalities effectively in hopes of maximizing their growth and learning.

My philosophy is to treat everyone fairly, but to manage each differently since they each have their own personalities and their own goals – I think that’s the best way to maximize the individual potential and team potential simultaneously.

4What would you list as three of the best aspects of working in Fan Relations? Why would those top the list?

The people, the experiences we provide and the fact there’s never a dull moment. The relationships I’ve built in the organization and in the fanbase will last a lifetime.

I have no family in the greater Boston area, so the people I’ve met through the Bruins really are like family to me.

Being able to provide experiences to our clients that they won’t get anywhere else is a special thing. Something as simple as meeting a player or riding the Zamboni during a game – that sticks with people for the rest of their lives and they tell others about it.

I do a lot of event planning throughout the year for Season Ticket Holders. From a small summer barbeque to a big event with the team, people really enjoy those experiences and getting together.

It’s so much more than just the 60 minutes of a hockey game, it’s a community and Season Ticket Holders coming together outside the Garden for these events shows that.

And there really is never a dull moment.

The flow changes if it’s the offseason or regular season or playoffs. The sports industry has evolved a lot over the past 10 seasons. Technology has changed, the on-ice product has changed and now a pandemic.

So, while the role – or I should say job description – doesn’t necessarily change, there are always new projects or new ideas popping up that leads to new experiences.

5Tell us your thoughts on whether being a competitive person is a valuable attribute for working in sales and specifically in your role within Fan Relations? Are you competitive?

I’m competitive.

I think I’m less competitive than maybe I used to be – and for the better.

It’s important to be competitive but in a level-minded way.

You can’t let your competitiveness fog your vision.

I think a balance between being competitive and even keel is the perfect formula, at least for my role and my situation.

MacKenzie Vaughan MacKenzie's Final Thoughts

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