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Remember your first day in Portland? If you didn’t live here you probably came for an event like the Rose Festival Parade.

Or a concert. Or a Blazer game.

You parked your car where it wouldn’t get stolen or keyed. After the event you drove home from the Big City thinking, “I’m glad I don’t live there.”

Like too many Oregonians outside the city limits, Portland feels like a necessary evil, an urban resource to visit but no different than Seattle or San Francisco. It’s just closer.

And wrong.

Portland is more. It’s our Chicago, our Milwaukie, our Baltimore, the big cities in their respective states. Since it’s Oregon, it still feels rural.

It’s Oregon, famous for small towns where the world revolves around natural beauty and ease of access to hunting and fishing, whether you hunt and fish or not. High school sports are the big draw there and everyone meets at the local pizza parlor after the games.

During basketball season they break down the Blazer games. When they can’t wait any longer they jump in the car and head out for the greatest show in the state.

Portland, a two sport town, has been an NBA draw for decades. The team and the company work together to give the Trail Blazers the sort of quirks you see on the hit show Portlandia.


Blame Oregon. Seepage is unavoidable.

In The Oregonian’s Sunday Business section, Allan Brettman profiled Blazer President and CEO Chris McGowan.

It had a few Portlandia moments.

Blazer employees with an office have a team jersey hanging on the outside. They’re part of the squad. Like a player who’s traded or retires and clears their locker on their last day, jersey’s leave the doors the same way. Brettman reports a lot of jerseyless doors in Blazer-land.

The former college athlete, Major League Soccer leader, and National Hockey League executive, is busy re-making the Blazers. At the same time he’s adding material to the Portland Trail Blazer story with dramatic style.

President McGowan said the Blazers were run by people who started as Blazers and stayed, instead of moving to other teams and cities. He said that’s “not the right way to run a business.” He could have added, “That’s Oregon.”

After reviewing the Blazer staff and taking team gear off the doors, President McGowan introduced the people ready to launch Portland to the next level:

  • Vince Ircandia from LA as VP of business operations.
  • Julie Atherton from the NHL Phoenix Coyotes as VP of human resources.
  • Steve DeLay from a variety of professional sports teams as ticket-sales consultant.
  • Anthony Jones DeBerry from LA as VP of premium seating.
  • And coming soon, a VP to be named later as head of marketing with expertise in digital marketing.

With his inner-circle populated by trusted So-Cal veterans, who will McGowan select as VP of digital marketing?

From his time at the top in LA, he has files of people qualified for the job. They’re great at LA marketing, but will it translate to Portland?

Here’s a few tips for the new hire:

The new VP needs to know Portland from inside out and how to make it new without being repetitive.

Have them visit Mississippi Ave., the L&C Expo grounds, Forest Park, and a house boat. For the best candidate, find a Portland baby boomer.

The Marketing VP connects to more fans if they’ve walked Portland streets before the building boom of the 1980’s. They should know The Pearl, NW gentrified, Hawthorne hopping, and Alberta dancing.

The ideal candidate comes from a small Oregon town, but lived in cities like Philadelphia and New York before Portland. They understand how special Portland is without turning it into ‘it could only happen here’ precious.

Work experience ought to include regular Oregon industries, fish and wood, before graduating to Wall Street and non-profits.

It should be someone with a history background, preferably educated in Oregon with a history degree from Portland State. Bonus points if they actually worked the history field for the Oregon Historical Society.

Once the team jells into championship form the Marketing VP will say, “The Blazer wins are tighter than the grain on eastside old growth.”

During a long play-off run in the sold-out Rose Garden they’ll say the Blazers play is, “More explosive than a Mt. St. Helens eruption.”

After the Blazers climb to the top of the NBA, the new Marketing VP needs to reference the interest in renewing season tickets as, “Higher than the water in the Bretz Floods, the biggest disaster since Dwight Howard shot a pressure free throw.”

Finally, the VP for digital marketing ought to have a few goals. Enter the word “trail” on a google search and it’s all Blazer.

Unless my google is different than your google, search for “Portland” and the choices are “Portland Aquarium, Portland State University, Portland weather, and Portland General Electric.”

When Mark Mason unleashes a thundering, “Are you ready…for YOUR PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS” make sure google knows what comes after Portland.

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About David Gillaspie
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