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ESPN's Darren Rovell Keynotes 2nd Vikings Business Summit

The Vikings brought together more than 130 representatives from team partners for the second-annual Minnesota Vikings Business Summit presented by Twin Cities Orthopedics.

EAGAN, Minn. — Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center has brought all Vikings employees under one roof since opening in March.

On Monday, the sparkling facility that celebrated its ribbon-cutting last week brought together more than 130 representatives from Vikings partners for the second-annual Minnesota Vikings Business Summit presented by Twin Cities Orthopedics.

ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell presented the keynote speech, "How Sponsors Reach Fans in the Social Media Age," explaining best practices and shared stories of successful marketing campaigns on social media.

The day's agenda focused on sharing best practices, with panels featuring Vikings partners providing insights on their successful activation strategy. Panels and presentations included "Partnering on Community Initiatives; Social and Digital Content; Hospitality Best Practices; Fan Segmentation, Behavior and Data; and Player Marketing."

Vikings partners who participated in panels included U.S. Bank, Land O'Lakes, MillerCoors, CenturyLink, Sleep Number, Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, Caribou Coffee, Innovative Office Solutions, Cisco, TMS Johnson and Hearth & Home. Multi-time Pro Bowlers Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith participated in the Player Marketing session.

During one of the panels, Caribou Coffee Vice President of Marketing and Product Innovation Jenifer Hagness announced plans for the new Vikings Blend, a medium blend roast that will be available in Caribou locations and select grocery stores in early August. Attendees fueled up for the day with samples of Vikings Blend, received shirts featuring Miller Lite's new Vikings marketing theme, and one lucky attendee received a new Sleep Number 360 p5 Smart Bed.

Rovell, who has more than two million followers on Twitter, pointed out that social media allows companies and customers to have a dialogue instead of the more historical monologue of a company communicating to a customer. He also used multiple examples to illustrate how companies can connect with consumers through sports marketing, even allowing companies to "acquire fans" of their products.

Among the tips offered were starting with good content and then implementing strategy with the timing of a tweet.

Rovell later spoke with's Mike Wobschall about his assessment of TCO Performance Center.

"This is clearly a best-in-class facility," Rovell said. "When you're building something new, these days, the business is not only the team. There's so much around it, and certainly, I gravitate toward [TCO Studios]. I've seen a lot of teams' [studios], and that's the best one I've ever seen.

"The idea is, when you build something, you build it to the times and surely, you'll fall behind," Rovell added. "Now, you have to build to the max because content is so important. Teams are generating their own content."

Most of the summit was held in the team meeting room/auditorium that connects to the state-of-the-art TCO Studios through an operable soundproof wall.

A stage in the main studio was easily reconfigured for different types of panel sessions and presentations by Vikings executives, staff members and partners.

Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren delivered a "State of the Vikings," providing updates on the current status. He displayed a notebook from a meeting on Nov. 29, 2004, which was from the first meeting of "Project Thor" when he began working with the Wilf Family on their acquisition of the Vikings franchise.

Warren explained that five goals for the franchise were set during that meeting:

  1. Build a world-class franchise
  2. Develop a long-term stadium solution
  3. Bring the Super Bowl back to Minnesota
  4. Build a new team headquarters
  5. Win a Lombardi Trophy for Vikings fans

Four of the five goals have been accomplished, and the Vikings are working hard on the fifth.

Warren explained that the Vikings have grown from 92 employees in 2005 to more than 200 and continue to look for ways to empower employees, foster collaboration and be forward-thinking.

U.S. Bank Stadium has received numerous awards and rave reviews since opening in 2016. The iconic venue and the state of Minnesota hosted Super Bowl LII in February, and TCO Performance Center has provided the team with modern amenities for advanced nutrition, training and recovery.

General Manager Rick Spielman joined "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen to provide football updates for a team that won 13 regular-season games (second-most in franchise history) and its second NFC North title in three seasons in 2017.

Spielman is a meticulous planner, considering details' details and forecasting multiple years at a time. He and his staff, in fact, recently mapped out their calendars until this time next year.

Interestingly, however, when asked about his favorite aspect of the job, Spielman told Allen it's often the challenge of handling the unexpected.

"You're in a routine, you know when the draft comes up, you know when free agency comes up, you know what your schedule is during the season," Spielman said. "But it's when you come in to work every day and you face challenges that you have to put out, issues that pop up that you don't anticipate, so it's exciting because you never know what is going to happen.

"Our business is so unpredictable," Spielman continued. "What happens on game days? What happens with injuries? What happens in the draft? What happens in free agency? So that's the most-exciting part and the most-rewarding part as well."

Heading into his 29th NFL season, Spielman said this offseason presented "probably the most-unique situation" he's experienced, with three quarterbacks on the Vikings roster in 2017 signing substantial contracts with other teams during free agency and a player of Kirk Cousins' caliber becoming available as an unrestricted free agent.

First, however, the Vikings needed to determine a new offensive coordinator and hired John DeFilippo.

"You can't make those quarterback decisions until you have the offensive coordinator in place," Spielman said. "You have to understand what type of scheme you're going to be running, is it going to be similar? What's the skill set of the quarterbacks? Is it going to be all deep throws? Is it going to be timing throws? Is it going to be running RPOs, which are run-pass options at the line? How quickly can he think and process?"

Spielman said "very rarely do you get an opportunity to sign a quarterback like" Cousins with his combination of age and abilities through free agency. Cousins will turn 30 in August and has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of his three seasons as a starter in Washington.

"Ownership gave us permission to go ahead and do the unique contract that we did," Spielman said. "I know one thing while we're here, we're always going to try to be as aggressive as we can to be the best we can to give us the potential to win."